Opposition senators submit minority committee report
OPPOSITION SENATORS Kamina Johnson Smith and Marlene Malahoo Forte have submitted a minority report to the Upper House in the wake of deliberations by the Senate Regulations Committee on the Office of Utilities Regulation (Amendment of First Schedule to the Act) Order, 2014.
At a meeting of the Regulations Committee of the Senate on Wednesday, chairman of the committee, Senator Navel Clarke, gave Johnson Smith leave to submit a minority report which was also signed by her colleague, Malahoo Forte. The two senators expressed dissatisfaction with the majority report, noting that there were omissions that should have formed part of the document.
The minority report follows claims on July 13 by legal counsel at the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) Cheryl Lewis that the Cabinet office had ignored its own guidelines when it failed to consult with stakeholders in the transport sector before taking steps to remove regulatory responsibility from the oversight body over road, rail and ferry.
Johnson Smith challenged references to a "consultation process" and a "consultation exercise" mentioned in the main report, pointing out that the only information which was presented to the committee was that the Ministry of Transport took a decision "within its precincts" and that the relevant minister then handed the recommended action to the prime minister for consideration by Cabinet. "There was no reference to any process whereby stakeholders including or other than the OUR, were consulted," Johnson Smith added.
At the committee's July 13 meeting, a decision was made to send a proposed amendment to the First Schedule of the OUR Act, which would remove public transportation from the jurisdiction of the OUR, back to the Upper House for review.
In her report, Johnson Smith indicated that she was dissatisfied with the committee's omission of reference to a breach of Cabinet guidelines which required consultation with relevant stakeholders where Cabinet decisions are to be made which impact those interest groups.
Omission of reference
She also called attention to an "Omission of the Ministry of Transport's reference to a court case as one of the reasons for the amendment. We believe that the unusual and unexpected nature of same is manifest and should be brought to the attention of the Senate so that it may enquire further."
In its Majority Report, the Regulations Committee of the Senate said it was concerned about the report from the OUR which stated that it was not involved in the consultation exercise. The committee made it clear that even though there was no evidence that there were legislative breaches, the entity, as the economic regulator, should have been consulted.
The committee concluded that the process by which the regulation was promulgated exposed a procedural breach in the form of a lack of consultation in the approval process. "It is therefore recommended that this Regulation be brought to the special attention of the Senate..."