The regulation that saw the increase in bus fare, which only reached the Senate for validation on Wednesday despite being introduced in April 2019, was declared invalid under the law by Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn.
As the Transport Authority Validation Act was introduced in the Upper Chamber to legitimise the fare increase, Senator Franklyn said: “A Minister cannot raise bus fares in a Budget.
“You can introduce or revoke taxes in a budget, but bus fares are not taxes. And even if you could, Government would have four months from the date it was announced to validate it.
“Bus fares were announced in the budget but not raised in the budget. The Minister imposed an increase in bus fare without checking the law, so people since April 15, 2019, have been paying increased bus fares with no lawful authority, as there was no law in place to permit it.
In a veiled reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against racial injustice, which was debated in the lower House of Assembly on Tuesday, Senator Franklyn declared: “No one is walking around Broad Street complaining about this; instead, we are picking up people’s fire rage when we have our own issues in this country.”
The opposition lawmaker queried why the fare hike was allowed to get past the highest levels of the public service and he accused senior civil servants of doing the will of politicians rather than doing what was right.
He said: “This should never have passed the Civil Service. But people get jobs and come in at the top, and I will always remember the 1974 constitutional amendments, which gave the Prime Minister authority to intervene in the appointment of senior public servants, and this led to problems because people got jobs based on who they knew, but did not know the procedures.
“The minister should find out who is responsible and deal with them, and we need civil servants who can advise ministers on making the right decisions without fear.”
But Senator Rudy Grant countered that Senator Franklyn was being unfair in his assessment, and cited other cases where validations came before the Senate under previous administrations.
He said: “Regarding validations, I remember between 2003 and 2008 when I was in the Senate as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, I recall Senator Freundel Stuart speaking on validation and how many such bills had come to the Senate.
“It was very interesting for me to observe that between 2008 and 2018 validation bills came to Parliament, and not because there was any desire at the outset not to facilitate what was required in the law, but so much was happening that Government has to come to Parliament at times with validation bills, that this is the reality of how we exist.”
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