Livern Barrett and Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writers
A minority report, prepared by opposition members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) examining the first Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, was yesterday laid in the House of Representatives after it was initially blocked by government members.
The report, which was critical of the estimates, was placed on the record after Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller met in emergency discussions and hammered out an agreement which allowed it to be tabled.
The government members on the committee had voted to block the report when the PAAC met yesterday before the sitting of the House, following two days of deliberation which culminated in a report they said was negative and almost political.
PAAC members voted nine to seven along party lines not to grant the committee leave to discuss the minority report, which raised concerns about the credibility of the estimates.
No vote to grant leave
Government member of the PAAC, Andrew Gallimore, who led the move to block the minority report, pointed out that the Standing Orders of Parliament require that a majority of the committee members must agree to grant leave to have it discussed.
"I can only speak for myself. I don't know what the other members will choose to do, but I am indicating that I will not be voting to grant that leave," Gallimore insisted.
Dr Wykeham McNeill, opposition chairman of the committee, took issue with Gallimore's position.
"To use numbers to say to the Opposition that they would not be allowed to put their report to Parliament through a technicality would be, at best, unfortunate," McNeill said.
The content of the report led to a major stalemate during Wednesday's sitting of the House, which caused an adjournment with very little business conducted.
Before the Supplementary Estimates can be approved, the PAAC report must be considered and passed by Parliament's Standing Finance Committee.
Last night, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips told the Standing Finance Committee that if Jamaica was to mature as a democracy, parliamentary oversight bodies such as the PAAC must be conducted with greater civility.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Audley Shaw said he was in support of the recommendation that a subcommittee comprising Gallimore, government member Tarn Peralto and opposition members Fitz Jackson and Phillip Paulwell meet with the finance ministry to receive regular reports on the standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Up to late last night, it appeared the estimates would be approved as the Government had superior numbers prepared for the vote.