Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has written to President Anthony Carmona requesting an urgent review of the terms and conditions of Members of Parliament without portfolio, in time for the start of the new parliamentary session in August.
Rowley is asking Carmona, in accordance with the powers conferred on his office by virtue of Section 140, that he immediately request the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) undertake this urgent review of the salaries and other terms of office of non-executive MPs in time for the July/August implementation of the revised Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
Non-executive MPs are Opposition members and Government backbenchers.
The last SRC Report, which was accepted by the Cabinet several weeks ago, recommended an increase in monthly salaries for non-executive MPs from $14,000 to $17,000 and for ministers from $33,000 to $41,000 for the period 2011-2014.
In his letter, Rowley said one of his concerns is that Parliament was not functioning as was intended. He noted that the Government was held accountable for its actions, not just at election time, but also on a daily basis, by the Parliament.
But, he said, Parliament had for some time “become an institution of acquiescence where the rules of procedures and the scales of power guarantee that governments achieve their objectives without accountability. So today, Your Excellency, when more than ever Parliamentarians should be charged with devoting their full-time attention to their parliamentary duties, there are those who still maintain the unrealistic notion that non-executive MPs are needed by the Parliament only intermittently and can therefore proceed to find employment elsewhere.”
“Your Excellency, as Leader of the Opposition, I reject any suggestion that an elected Parliamentarian has the available time to commit himself or herself to a second job. This suggestion is all the more unacceptable since it offends the incompatibility principle which advocates that at no time must a Parliamentarian’s occupation compromise or be seen to compromise his or her role as a representative of the people,” Rowley stated.
He said a number of mechanisms were used by MPs to oversee the intricate web of modern executive operations, such as parliamentary questions and debates, but parliamentary oversight committees have taken a lead role in this regard over the years.
Rowley said the untenable situation was likely to be further aggravated by the resolution passed on March 14, wherein the House of Representatives agreed to new Standing Orders to be implemented in July/August 2014, upon the commencement of the Fifth Session of the 10th Parilament.
In addition to the current committees, seven new committees have been added. They include committees on National Security, Energy Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Public Administration and Appropriations and Government Assurances.
“Taken as a whole, the revised Standing Orders can be a powerful antidote, not only to injudicious decision-making, but also to improved monitoring of the executive arm of the State...It is certainly my hope that these new Standing Orders will indeed intensify Parliament’s voice against all forms of dishonesty, waste and general misconduct in public office and nurture Parliament’s interest in the maintenance of its own integrity...
“However, Your Excellency, the revision of the Standing Orders and other parliamentary-strengthening efforts will altogether be an unfortunate waste of time and other valuable resources, if we fail to promptly and adequately treat with the office of MP and address the status of non-executive MPs so as to have them available to the House on a full-time basis,” Rowley said.