Friday, May 23, 2008

The position of Auditor General should be advertised with a view to filling it

The position of Auditor General should be advertised with a view to filling it
Stabroek News letter. Friday May 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee of the Guyana Parliament (PAC). It will be recorded in the Hansard of that committee that I have never been satisfied with the work of acting Auditor General Sharma. In fact, an examination of his 2004 audit when compared to the highly respected Goolsarran audit of 2003 shows a country which has miraculously recovered from numerous procedural, administrative and financial improprieties in the various government departments.
I have made this known to the committee in Mr Sharma’s presence on numerous occasions, and on one occasion he even walked out of a Public Accounts Com-mittee meeting in objection to my accusations, and Ms Bibi Shadick, MP, a member of the PAC had to go outside and persuade him to return.
Mr Sharma is acting, and that in my view prejudices his autonomy considerably. It is my belief that we should advertise and seek to fill the position of Auditor General.
Mr Editor, the business of the Guyana Parliament is not only conducted when we meet for the ceremonial proceedings, a large portion of the business of the parliament happens when we meet in the trenches at committee level. I believe that the media can support us much more effectively by paying attention to what goes on at the committee level in parliament, especially the PAC and the Economics Services Commit-tees to see which MPs are working and which are not. It would also afford an opportunity to garner public support for the work of parliament at a stage where it may be possible to change things, however little. In the National Assembly of Guyana when we assemble to pass the laws, the 35 PPP parliamentarians along with their permanent appendix, the TUF, will vote the way they were told to vote by the PPP’s executive branch of the Guyana government. If Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, the greatest orator and parliamentarian who ever lived, were to stand before this group of 36 men and women in the Guyana parliament on the government side and deliver the most persuasive speech he ever delivered in his life, he would not be able to change one vote. That makes a mockery and a farce of our entire legislative system.
The people of Guyana must understand that the members who represent them in this parliament can do nothing for them under such a system, and any further perversions of it must be comprehensively criticised or we will sink even further into the morass of lawlessness. People must understand that their representatives in parliament are only as effective as their (the public’s) capacity to support them with their ongoing militancy; just putting them there every 5 years is not enough, the people have to support them militantly and continually for there to be any real change to their situation.
Which is why the upcoming Commonwealth Parlia-mentarian Association’s three-day Guyana workshop on ‘Parliament and the Media’ is in my opinion an important event, and I urge all media houses in Guyana send a representative/s, since through your coverage of what goes on in the parliament, the public will be kept informed about what is happening and register the necessary protests early before it becomes ‘cast in stone’ as law.
I am glad that the question of the conflicting nature of the Minister of Finance’s wife Sita, who is employed at the audit office has come up. She is a highly qualified young lady and frankly I have asked the Finance Minister, Mr Ashni Singh, to consider moving her to some position in a government department, since she is very competent and this country needs skilled people badly.
But now that it is in the open, I will record that I am not comfortable with her being in the audit office as one letter writer in your columns pointed out. Since this is Guyana, however, where conflict of interest is not a preoccupation of our people, as evidenced by so much of it existing in almost all levels of public life without comment or criticism, I thought that we would seek to move her quietly. The fact is that she was there when Ashni became Minister in 2006 which compromised her, and we have to bear that in mind. She was not sneaked in there afterwards. Frankly, she was on pregnancy leave when we discovered all of this early in 2007 and she was not on the job. Somehow it does not seem fair that a wife should have to leave a job she loves because her husband got promoted, but the bottom line is that her husband is the Minister of Finance now, and that puts her in a conflict of interest position, so your letter writer is correct. On mentioning this to a very close friend of mine, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye, to solicit his advice, he gave me this example: up to three years ago Sir David Simmons was the Attorney General of Barbados and his wife was a sitting judge in the high court.
Three years ago Sir David was made Chief Justice of Barbados and the next day after his appointment his wife Lady Simmons resigned as a judge because she perceived that she was suddenly placed in a conflict of interest position. It is a good lesson. It is also one of the reasons why Barbados can still boast an exchange rate of two Barbadian dollars to one US, instead of 200 to one.
For all of the above reasons, Mr Editor, as I announced in an interview with the Evening News in April, I have asked Mr Robert Corbin – for whom I have the greatest of respect – in writing dated March 28, 2008, to relieve me of the onerous and pointless (as I see it) duty of being a member of the Guyana Parliament.
Yours faithfully,
Anthony Vieira, MS MP

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