LEADER of the House of Representatives Edmund Bartlett says he will be meeting with heads of Parliament's sessional committees today to discuss the issue of the capacity of the oversight committees to perform efficiently without additional resources.
Bartlett said yesterday that the meeting is essential if the committees are to effectively do their work, and suggested that the House of Representatives look at a capacity-building arrangement for committees like the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee (ICOC).
“I assure you, we will be taking it up,” he told members of the newly selected ICOC, which was having its first meeting at Gordon House last week.
“It has to be borne in mind that Members of Parliament are not necessarily professionals in many fields nor, perhaps, academics. So, therefore, they need the support and the information and data, and the quality guidance to enable the best-quality reviews that can be given,” said Bartlett, the tourism minister.
“I am driven by that, and I am having the meeting of the chairmen of all sessional committees in order to look at all these areas, and to see how we can identify what capacity support is required to enable these committees to perform more efficiently and at the highest level,” he added.
He has, meanwhile, asked the House Committee and the Standing Orders Committee, which he chairs, to look at the broader issue of providing more resources, including consultants, with which these committees can work.
“It is impossible for us to be able to give the kind of quality reviews that are required without having the tools,” he said.
Bartlett was supported by fellow members of the committee, including Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, and Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding.
The attorney general pointed out that the work which is required of the oversight committee “is critical in the governance of the nation”.
“But the paucity of resources, the support that is given to reach the requisite level, is not there,” she argued.
Golding, meanwhile, said there was already significant criticism in the public domain, and concerns about the inability of the oversight committees “to keep the country abreast of what it is doing, until the final report is actually sent to Parliament”.
He suggested that the Integrity Commission assign people with the necessary expertise to become liaison officers for the committee, from its staff of some 400 employees.
Chuck suggested the involvement of The University of the West Indies students, who have been recruited as interns by Parliament since September. Acting Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Valrie Curtis shared that there were also two research officers who have been recruited to support the work of the parliamentarians. She said, however, that before a decision can be made there is a need for her office to do some groundwork to see “if they have the capacity to do such a job”.