Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes
August 18 2018
…at National Assembly sittings
MINISTER of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, on Friday, sought to clear the air on the issue of the $700,000 being spent on food for every National Assembly sitting, noting that the money is in fact spent on food for more than 300 persons.
Minister Hughes pointed out that the picture is being painted to look as though the $700,000 is being spent solely on food for the Members of Parliament (MPs), when in actuality; food is also being provided for the parliamentary staff, media corps, drivers, and other personnel.
“Everybody assumes that the $700,000 is being spent on the 65 MPs, but I want to explain that in fact 309 people are fed from that $700,000 cost at each sitting,” Hughes clarified.
“And this is for one full meal and sometimes one or two snacks depending on how long the session is. So if you do a quick calculation we’re talking roughly about 2265 per person, so that changes the whole scenario. So the suggestion that it’s caviar that we’re eating is totally unfounded.”
Breaking down the 309, the MPs are not even the largest group receiving food.
“There’s the 65 MPs, and then you have the parliamentary staff which numbers 115. Then you have the media, sometimes we go on until 1am – 3am in the morning and of course they need to be fed, and there’s 40 of them, and also the drivers, including the two drivers associated with Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, and they come up to 60. And it’s not just drivers for the MPs and government ministers, but other drivers that are there to take the parliamentary staff home. We also have security, we have government officials and medical, all of these people are there at every sitting, and it numbers 309 persons that are fed,” Hughes explained.
Hughes pondered if perhaps Jagdeo is suggesting that these extra personnel should not be fed.
“I go to the washroom at 10pm; the cleaning lady is still there. So I don’t know if Mr. Jagdeo is suggesting that the cleaning staff, the media, and drivers are not entitled to a meal when they are working between 2pm and 10pm,” Hughes questioned.
The minister also sought to join the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, and other parliamentarians who are refuting the claims that taxpayers’ money is also being spent to provide lavish and expensive alcoholic beverages to parliamentarians.
Jagdeo, last Thursday, during his weekly press conference, indicated that taxpayers’ money is being spent to provide alcoholic beverages to parliamentarians during the sitting of the National Assembly.
“I’m not talking about food, it is the alcohol part that I have a problem with. We should buy our alcohol in parliament, not to have taxpayers pay for our drinking bill,” he said.
But Hughes says it is not so.
“The perception that every single sitting has a table with alcohol flowing is totally inaccurate, it’s a blatant lie. We have alcohol if we’re having like a Christmas party or every now and again if it’s a birthday somebody might walk with something to drink. But to suggest that we’re wasting taxpayers money [on alcohol] is nothing short of deceitful,” she said.