PM’s $5.5M reform expenditurePrime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s recent statement to the National Assembly that his secretariat spent some $5 million on constitutional reform was not sitting well with former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who questioned how veracious was the senior Government official in his disclosure. In fact, the Opposition Member of Parliament called out Government for non-fulfilment of platform promises, which included a commitment to constitutional reform. “We are three and a half years into the Government, and there are no tangible steps being taken in this direction. We had a report done by a few persons handpicked by the Prime Minister and we were told millions were expended; it was handed to the PM and we have heard nothing about the report since,” the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) executive complained.It was just months after the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition entered office that PM Nagamootoo in August 2015 appointed a Steering Committee that was supposed to lay the framework for a new constitutional process. The Committee’s convener was Attorney Nigel Hughes, while constitution expert Haslyn Parris was named as a member in addition to Professor Harold Lutchman and Attorneys Gino Persaud and Geeta Chandan-Edmond.Hughes is the husband of Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes while Chandan-Edmond, a former magistrate, was later appointed Board Chairperson of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL) which publishes the State-owned newspaper. Meanwhile, Persaud was subsequently appointed to the post of a High Court judge.Prime MinisterMoses NagamootooSpeaking to Guyana Times, Nandlall observed that the Committee “did not speak” with the PPP, which, along with its Civic component, was the only Opposition party in the National Assembly. “So, we know very little about this mysterious report, then another year and a half passed again and there was no movement, but there was a lot of public criticism … and then the Prime Minister finally moved in the Parliament to establish a Constitutional Reform Committee earlier this year. A bill was passed, but up to now, the Committee has never met,” he stressed.From the 2018 budget, it was outlined that the Office of the Prime Minister spent millions of dollars on constitutional reform and when the National Assembly came out of recess last week, the Opposition questioned how much out of the $109.2 million allocated to Nagamootoo’s secretariat under the sub heading ‘other’ was spent.It was revealed that while $21.4 million of the amount was spent up to August 2018, of that figure, the PM spent $5 million towards constitutional reform “activities”. Nandlall indicated to this newspaper that he was not satisfied with the response he obtained from Nagamootoo and outlined that his party would seek to ascertain how the money was expended.Constitutional violationsHighlighting the slow implementation of the functioning of certain constitutional bodies, Nandlall posited the view that the current Administration was not embarking on the required measures to achieve the reform, which it assured would have been carried out.“You have constitutional violations taking place almost every day; right now, we don’t have a Judicial Services Commission (JSC) in place which is a violation of the Constitution. The President is not pursuing an agreement with the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of a Chancellor and a Chief Justice of the country which is another constitutional violation,” Nandlall informed.He added that “many people believe” that the Constitution was violated by the President in his unilateral appointment of James Patterson as the Chairman of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM), but much could not be said on the matter as an appeal was before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The life of the most recent JSC ended in September 2017 along with the Police Service Commission (PSC). However, the PSC was re-constituted in August 2018, nearly one year later. In the PSC’s absence, Citizenship Minister Winston Felix, acting in the capacity of Public Security Minister, a post held by Khemraj Ramjattan, instructed the then acting Police Commissioner to send an Assistant Superintendent of Police home, but the High Court determined this was unconstitutional.“You have constitutional disobedience and Government’s commitment to constitutional reform is not taking place … we don’t even know what these reforms are. The Government has not put out a white paper about what it intends to achieve by this constitutional reform. They supposedly have a report which nobody else has seen, other than the Prime Minister and millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to compile this report and not a single taxpayer has seen it,” the former Attorney General told this newspaper.Apart from the money that was spent on the reforms, $5.5 million was spent on launching regional radios at Aishalton, Bartica and Orealla while some of the money also went towards training the radio personnel and Nagamootoo’s “outreach activities”.Some $4.6 million was also spent on a supervisory consultancy for the regional radio project, while $1.2 million was spent on information technology and web services and $1.6 million on events and functions. In addition, another $1.4 million was spent on repairs to furniture at the official residence and office, and carpets. The remaining amounts, according to the Prime Minister, were spent on expenses such as cell phones and work study students’ stipends.