UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial says recently passed procurement legislation should be repealed in light of an acknowledgment by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi that his wife’s law firm was retained by the Office of the Prime Minister.
The firm was hired to advise the Cabinet in legal proceedings over national scholarships and bursaries.
“…This retainer adequately demonstrates why these amendments should be repealed in order to facilitate an adequate level of accountability and transparency as it relates to the expenditure of public funds.”
In a statement, Lutchmedial said the UNC had started a campaign to educate the public on the “gutting of the procurement law by the PNM administration” which, she said, “interestingly removes legal services from scrutiny of the procurement regulator.”
She said Al-Rawi’s statement that his wife’s law firm was hired by the OPM and not his ministry gave “little comfort to a population that has grown weary of PNM justification for actions which are inappropriate and (reek) of nepotism.
“As the legal adviser to the Cabinet how could the AG not see an issue with his wife, and the firm that he was once a part of, being retained to represent the Cabinet?
“Was he, as the person responsible for legal affairs of this country, not consulted on the matter? Or did he recuse himself again?
“This appears to be a trend with this AG, who gives little weight to the optics involved when he exercises his discretion in certain matters,” she added.
Lutchmedial said the public should be assured there is propriety in the expenditure of state funds. She also took issue with Al-Rawi’s statement that spouses of Cabinet colleagues also received contracts.
“This begs the question, how many spouses, children and other immediate relatives of Cabinet ministers are recipients of state contracts and retainers?”
She said the PNM, when in opposition, spent five years “crucifying every attorney retained by the PP government, even though all the legal fees paid were disclosed.
“They have (now) adopted the position that fees paid from taxpayer dollars (are) ‘private information’ and apart from retaining friends and family, refuse to say how much these persons are paid.”