Friday, December 15, 2017

Rowley: PM’s question time will keep Govt on its toes

 Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday the Prime Minister’s question time would force the Prime Minister to be on top of all matters relating to the Government “and, of course, to be present in the Parliament”.

“The Prime Minister cannot be sleeping on the job.... A Prime Minister having to face that period of question always exposed to questions about what is happening somewhere in the Government,” he said, adding it would ensure Government is on its toes.

“A whole lot of Government agencies would come into immediate focus of the Prime Minister’s eye when this is imple­mented. Because I guarantee you, and a lot of the questions that will come to our Prime Minister will come about what is taking place in the State enterprise sector,” Rowley said. 

“The minute we implement this, everyone in that sector should be put on immediate notice that the Prime Minister is accountable for your conduct and your performance, and you better be on the ball,” Rowley said.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on the motion to adopt the report of the Standing Orders Committee, at Tow­er D, Interna­tional Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Rowley called for the immediate implementation of the new Standing Orders.

He said there was no good reason why Parliament could not take steps to obtain the bene­fits of the new Standing Orders as soon as the debate on the report is concluded, and not wait until the new parliamentary term as suggested by the Government. 

Rowley said the creation of new committees was significant. He said the country needed a committee on energy affairs urgently, particularly at this time when this country was operating in a world where energy was becoming increasingly technical and political. 

Referring to the national security committee, he said if issues arise in national security, then the Parliament should be allowed to address those issues. 

“If in the Parliament’s judgment something should be happening or not happening in national security, then the Parliament should be able to intervene,” he said. 

He said what should be encouraged through these committees is in-depth investigation by Parliament. 

Noting the Standing Orders state Parliament should meet from 1.30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Rowley said no matter how brilliant a person was, after six to seven hours of concentrated work, his/her mind begins to flag. 

He said one needed alert minds for serious consideration of matters. He said there would be greater frequency of Parliament, but away from marathon sittings. 

Rowley stressed more parliamentary oversight of the public assets was needed. He said a number of key State companies have not submitted their reports—Caribbean Airlines (CAL)—since 2009, National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco)—since 2007, Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG)—since 2010, Housing Development Corporation (HDC)—since 2004, Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT)—since 2006, National Quarries (NQ)—since 2010, Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA)—since 2009, and National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB)—since 2010. 

Citing the current issue with First Citizens, Rowley said “one man walked with $10 million and entered the Government. Now, we are hearing that another man bought shares valued at $14 million”.