THE parliamentary joint select committee (JSC) on the Local Government Reform Bill 2019, will hold a public hearing at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre from 10 am on Friday. The JSC is chaired by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat.
Other members include Education Minister Anthony Garcia, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and Tabaquite MP Dr Surujrattan Rambachan. Former public administration minister Marlene McDonald and former government senator Garvin Simonette were members of this JSC. McDonald was fired from this post and as PNM deputy political leader by the Prime Minister after she was charged by police as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption. She faces seven charges: two for conspiracy to defraud, four for alleged misbehaviour in public office and one for money laundering.
McDonald, according to the Parliament’s website, is also the chairman of the Foreign Affairs JSC. Newsday understands that when Parliament returns from its mid-year recess next month, McDonald’s place on both of these committees will be taken by different government members. Simonette, was initially tipped to replace McDonald as public administration minister. But he declined to accept this post and resigned as a senator after Opposition activists exposed a driving under the influence (DUI) charge he received in the United States in 2014.
Simonette accepted responsibility for not telling Dr Rowley about this matter. Rowley and PNM vice-chairman Robert Le Hunte subsequently indicated the party would strengthen its vetting processes for people being considered for public office. At a PNM meeting in Port of Spain last Friday, Rowley hinted at the involvement of the Special Branch in this matter. Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West was appointed public administration minister. PNM general secretary Foster Cummings was reappointed to the Senate to replace Simonette. Cummings’ appointment was revoked on July 21 to facilitate the senatorial appointment of new Communications Minister Donna Cox. The Local Government Reform Bill JSC is scheduled to report back to Parliament by September 27. The JSC on the Private Security Industry Bill 2019 and the JSC on the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters Bill, 2018, the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill, 2018 and the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018, will hold in-camera meetings at Tower D on August 28 and 30, respectively.