Prime Minister and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs [Mr. Hinds]: We, on this side in the Government, do not contest that these four commissions are to be able to operate independently of any direction. We do not contest that. We too have read the Constitution and we have seen, as referred to in the motion by Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge, those articles where there are established. But, Mr. Speaker, if you look at it closely you would see that where they are established, there in the marginal notes, they speak to certain things. We hold that the issue of their independence is addressed and spoken to in the Constitution, in article 222A. So we hold that article 222A is the one that guides our action. When we looked to the Third Schedule, those four commissions are not listed on it. Other commissions are listed, but it so happens. We are willing to accept that it might have been an oversight at the time that they were not included in schedule three.
We would argue that it would be incorrect for us to take any action here, in this House, which is not fully and properly in accord with what is written in the Constitution. Therefore we hold that to achieve what the Hon. Member wants to achieve, and which we do not vary with, that the proper thing to do is to set about and arrange to have these four commissions entered into schedule three. So we hold that there is nothing wrong being done now. Let me rephrase that. There is nothing being done now that is in violation of the Constitution or any other law. There is nothing being now that is unlawful.
We fear more that the resolved clauses call on us to do something that might well be improper, if not unlawful. We hold that the solution is so simple, and so direct, that we sent to the Constitution Reform Commission our request, that it speedily sets about to review this matter and make recommendations to us. No doubt, we expect the recommendation would be that these four commissions should be included also in schedule three.
I think this is a very simple matter. I note that the Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge went on to speak broadly about other things which I do believe were not sufficiently germane to the motion that he has put before us, but he took the opportunity to smear or to present a certain view that I think I need to make some comments to.
He particularly went out to talk about the situation of the public servants. I would say that it would well be that we in Guyana, coming to independence, did have a tradition in our country where public servants were independent, where public servants did not express views that in any way would be different from the administration. We came from that period where public servants did not take positions in political parties and, even more, did not put themselves up and coming to the National Assembly. He did say that there are two persons. Just for clarity, in my kind of quick thinking, here I see a doctor on one side of the House and I see a doctor also on the other side of the House, so, maybe, in this matter we may both be guilty to a similar extent in so doing. But I think it is unchallenged that when independence came, up to the time of independence, we had the kind of public servants and public service that Mr. Greenidge referred to as the Westminster model - the Westminster desire. I would have hoped very much that situation may have prevailed in Guyana and would have been, perhaps, with us on to this day.
But let us just quickly recall what happens immediately after, and we may need to say no more than we had a period of paramountcy of the party well declared. I would say, for us, we have great difficulty coming into Government when many of the female members in the public service, if not the majority of the public servants, would have indicated some kind of association, in the past, with the administration of that day. When we came along it was an issue, but I would challenge persons to list the number of people as a percentage of all of the public servants that we changed when we came into Government. I will challenge them to list and put, as a proportion, the number of public servants, particularly senior public servants, that we changed when we came into Government.
There is more to this issue than the question that was put. There is a situation where Westminster was good for a particular time, for a particular period in the development of governance in mankind, as a whole, and it had its great achievements no doubt, but it was beginning to change, even then. All around the world there were different feelings coming about that the public service also needed to be efficient, to be as efficient as the private sector, and therefore the private sector became a model for public service. For example, many people started to question the issue of seniority followed very slavishly. I recall four foresters from Kenya who I went to school with - I encountered them some time later - and we all graduated the same time, as I did, and they went home. They kind of returned home, day after day, and the one who returned last, maybe two or three days after the first three, early, decided to leave the public service because, no matter what, he was going to be always behind them to the end of his career in life. So he left the public service. So there were issues, as that, coming up and the public service has been evolving.
I think, maybe, in New Zealand, quite early, took some of the most radical steps. I think the Permanent Secretaries there are appointed by the Prime Minister, or the group in power, and in any case they also have a limitation on the period of time that they are Permanent Secretaries. They have actually referred to as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) for the Ministry. There is the general feeling that after a term, or a term and a half, one would have probably lost all the zeal in oneself, and so there is a limitation on them. Things have been evolving. We have had our particular situation here in Guyana. So what the Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge went on to present certainly is worthy of our consideration, but I rather doubt it should be considered at this time and on this particularly simple motion that he has brought here.
I would say, just to answer some of the allegations that he has been making,… The position of our party has been, ever since in the 1950s and the 1960s, and certainly since we have come along, that, maybe, we do not speak enough in great flowery terms, but we deliver in cash. I would like to stress again that public servants in this country of Guyana, since we came into Government in 1992, have had a period of steady improvements in the real income levels that, maybe, if it is to be matched at all, it will only match with the 1957 to 1964 period, certainly not in the 1964 to 1992 period. We delivered the good; we arranged for the delivery of the good. Maybe, we should give a bit more to flowery speaking and such like. Maybe, we should give a bit more to that, but we have delivered the goods.
That was a diversion; but I think it was a necessary diversion and it only in response to some of the points that the Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge was making. I return to what I considered the main thrust of this motion, and our position is that we do accept that there should be considerations, urgent considerations, and most likely favourably considerations, that these four commissions should be listed on the schedule three and therefore we recommend - I will move some amendments; there are amendments standing in my name - that we call on the Constitutional Reform Commission to consider this matter and make the appropriate recommendation to this National Assembly. I would have no doubt that such recommendations would receive the kind of support that such constitutional amendments would require.
We did some work also on this matter. Whilst schedule three lists the commissions that should received this treatment for independence, to effect their independence, we still have an issue as to how it should be done in practice; how it should be operationalised perhaps. We looked at the Audit Act of 2004. I think it is known to many of us that the Act, section 40 of the Audit Act of 2004 of Guyana, provides guidance on how the Office of the Auditor General may draw directly from the Consolidated Fund. Government would consider that a similar approach would be considered for these service commissions.
Let me at least acknowledge one thing that I agree with, I concur with, that the Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge said. He did say that, or at least I understood him to say, independence, and particularly financial independence, could not mean that the service commissions, in their own deliberate judgement and discretion, determine the quantum of money that they would get. Although I think he rather lamented that, with the need to have discussions with the Minister of Finance on the overall quantity of money, some amount of limitation inevitably arise, some amount of limitation and constraints, but these are all the facts of life. As we live, we would all like to do very many things. I am not certain that I would like to get a Mercedes-Benz, but many people may like to; but we are constrained by the money that we have. [Mr. Rohee: It is not a Mercedes-Benz; it is a Porsche.] It is a Porsche. This is a fact of life: something that we could not readily escape.
What we do say though is that let us focus on increasing on our wealth. In fact, I know my colleague, the Minister of Finance, would have much preferred spending this afternoon on matters that would lead to the increase of wealth of our country. That is what he would have preferred and he feels very badly, as many of us here, to come this afternoon and go through a number of motions which, maybe we wrongly feel, are intended to smear - throw mud all around, as much mud all around, and see where it might stick and catch. We might have preferred to have spent the afternoon working on arrangements that would bring more growth to our country and more income, and more money, so that we have more money to pay the public servants, and so on.
There is an example in our own section 40 of the Audit Act of 2004, and in our neighbouring country, Trinidad, which faces the same questions. I have been advised here by my officers, who prepared it, that articles 110, 120, 122 and 124 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago provide for the establishment of these same commissions - Judicial and Legal Service Commission, Public Service Commission, Police Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission - and there is a Service Commission Department which is an executive agency, as oppose to a budget agency, and it spells out how the budgets are prepared, approved and administered in Trinidad and Tobago. So we have work to do and we are willing to get on with that work.
I think we have circulated the amendments that I intend to move. I think they are quite obvious. We proposed an amendment to the sixth WHEREAS CLAUSE.
Amend the sixth AND WHEREAS clause as follows:
After the words “AND WHEREAS” insert the words “Article 222A of the Guyana Constitution does not include in Schedule III, the services commissions, and therefore their placement on the Schedule of the Budget Agencies in the FM and A Act is not unlawful”
Delete the words “the continued maintenance of the aforesaid Service Commissions in the Schedule of the Budget Agencies seriously compromised the independence in the discharge of their functions,” after the words of the sixth AND WHEREAS clause.
Add a new and seventh AND WHEREAS clause which reads as follows:
AND WHEREAS during the April Budget 2012 talks between the Government of Guyana and the Leader of the Opposition and the A.P.N.U, agreement was reached that certain entities not included under Schedule III of the Article 222A of the Constitution, including the service commissions, would require constitutional reform.
Add a new BE IT RESOLVED clause to read as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED that this House refer this matter to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform.
Delete the original BE IT RESOLVED and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED clauses.
In fact, this WHEREAS clause which, as presented, states:
“AND WHEREAS the continued maintenance of the aforesaid Service Commissions in the Schedule of Budget Agencies seriously compromises their independence in the discharge of their functions,”
We think that is unnecessary. Our position is that it is the accurate thing to do, at this time, because that is what is in the Constitution, as it is currently written. So we are making a change. We propose to say differently.
“AND WHEREAS Article 222 A of the Guyana Constitution does not include in Schedule III, the services commissions, and therefore their placement on the Schedule of Budget Agencies in the FM and A Act is not unlawful.”
I notice that Mr. Greenidge challenged our new seventh WHEREAS clause which reads:
“AND WHEREAS during the April Budget 2012 talks between the Government of Guyana and the Leader of the Opposition and the A.P.N.U, agreement was reached that certain entities not included under Schedule III of the Article 222A of the Constitution, including the service commissions, would require constitutional reform.”
I guess that in the nature of such discussion there is a certain amount of tentativeness and testing, and so on. I have signed this and I do maintain that this is my understanding of the discussion. There was discussion. I take it that the Hon. Member is also being earnest and using his best recall when he said that he did not think that agreement was reached to do it. I think agreement was reached, at least it was discussed. I think that was our sentiment that we will proceed to review this matter by way of the Constitutional Reform Commission. [Ms. Teixeira: It is the Committee.] It is the Committee.
So there is our final “BE IT RESOLVED that this House refer this matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform” and we proposed that the other “BE IT RESOLVED and be IT FURTHER RESOLVED clauses” be deleted. We proposed this because we think that these clauses, in calling upon us to do certain things that are not explicitly provided for in the Constitution, are at least improper, if not illegal.
We recognise a need for reform here and we intend to support it. We hope that our proposed amendments would find favour with the House.
I thank you. [Applause]