Day One of the Consideration of Estimates for the 2024 National Budget got underway on Tuesday with a fiery exchange between Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister, Gail Teixeira and Opposition Parliamentarian David Patterson.
The two politicians clashed on several topics ranging from the Public Procurement Commission’s (PPC) workload for 2023 and budgetary increases set aside for the commission in this year’s $1.146 trillion budget.
During his scrutinising of the $270.9 million earmarked for the PPC, Patterson highlighted that the provision represents an increase of 15 per cent, and questioned whether “Guyana is getting value for money”.
This comment was made after he and the Parliamentary Committee of Supply were informed that the commission completed a meagre four investigations over the past 18 months.
Additionally, of the four investigations completed, only two of them have been published, despite receiving a total of 12 requests for investigations to be done following its reconstitution in July 2022.
In response, Teixeira told the Committee of Supply that the PPC completed four reports when compared to the coalition government’s two reports during their tenure.
Further, the Minister reminded that the commission is tasked with other responsibilities outside of conducting investigations into Government procurement.
“I wish to remind the Honourable Member that under Article 212 of the Constitution, the PPC has 13 functions, one of which is investigation, one of which is investigation. It has 13 functions, and the Procurement Act also details its roles on several issues in compliance with the Constitution. So, you are focusing on one issue, yes. Do we think we are getting value for money? Yes! In the anti-corruption field being able to investigate and have an authority that is constitutional and independent of the Government or you the Opposition or anybody else so, be it. The money is well used because it allows for that oversight function,” Minister Teixeira stated.
PPC wages and salariesOn the topic of wages and salaries, Patterson inquired specifically about the salaries and benefits paid to the Chairman and Commissioners.
It was then revealed by Teixeira that the Chairman of the PPC receives a salary of $1.3 million monthly or $15.6 million per annum in addition to travel, telephone, entertainment and security allowances.
Meanwhile, the five Commissioners employed by PPC receive $900,000 per month, amounting to $10.8 million annually.
“Based on the response given by the Minister, quick calculations, for the 18 months that they would have existed, the Chairperson would have received about $30 million, the Deputy Chairperson would have received $24 million, and the three commissioners combined, in the 18 months since they have been established, would have received $50 million in salaries to produce two single reports. Sir, does this agency consider that value for money,” Patterson asked.
Minister Teixeira reminded Patterson that members of the PPC were receiving similar salaries under the APNU+AFC administration.
She further explained to the Committee that the current Commission is responding to requests for investigation as they come, however, the progress of those investigations is based on the availability of documents needed.
“Chairman and Commissioners were set by the PAC and brought to this house and approved, and so all the increases they may get may be to do with the 6.5 there has been no shift in the salaries, they’re not allowed to do that but to come back to the PAC if they want to change… and it’s clear in the constitution and legislation,” Minister Teixeira said.
“Two reports from 2018 to 2020, sir. And you know the two reports. You know one very well sir. You know one extremely well which had to do with the new Demerara Harbour Bridge, which you know now is a matter in Court sir, and so, that was one of the investigations of the PPC then and was made public and was then removed from the website. The second one, had to do with the Ministry of Health, and the purchase of $600M worth of drugs without going to tender,” the Minister added.