One of the highlight of today’s sitting was none other than Hon. Elvin Penner, who made his first public appearance today since the passport scandal- which made him the headline news for months. As we had reported to you on a previous occasion, the Barrow Administration had made a collective decision to relocate Penner’s seat to the farthest corner of the House, which he occupied today.
While Penner was fired from the Senate and subsequently fired from his portfolio as the Junior Minister at the Ministry of Immigration, Penner is still an elected representative. This would then mean that Penner, like all other elected representatives is receiving a stipend of $7,000 a month, which, to our understanding, is intended for the use of the his respective constituency. Prime Minister Dean Barrow affirmed that Penner is indeed getting this money.
“Yes, he is like so many other area representatives; he receives the stipend, and like so many others, he does have an office of his own as I understand. So, you are perfectly correct. That is something he will have to account for, I suppose, to the Auditor General. We try to make the point that these funds are given to all of us as area representatives for specific purposes, but he is not the only one who is not using the money for the purposes for which they are given”.
However, the Ministerial perks do not stop there. He is also enjoying free access to Government and also a government vehicle, which according to the Prime Minister, he has been enjoying across the border.
Hon. Dean Barrow: “I had explained that he is still the Chairman of the House Committee. The practice has been from the time of the last administration that chairpersons of House Committees are given a vehicle. I spoke to Penner because I was told that the vehicle was seen across the border in Chetumal, last weekend, and I made it plain: ‘That is not to happen, even if you are chairman of the House Committee and you still have a government vehicle, you can’t take it across the border without getting permission from the Ministry of Finance Vehicle Care Unit and I don’t know what House Committee where can be that would require you to travel across the border”.
Even with the measures taken against Hon. Penner, the Prime Minister has been accused by the opposition of shielding Minister Elvin Penner and questions as to why Penner has not been made to resign from the House persist. The Prime Minister says that he has been contemplating that move.
Hon. Dean Barrow: “For him to cease to be Chairman of the House Committee, we will have to convey a Committee of Selection; there is a process…not that we cannot get it done; we have the majority; we can get it done; there is a process; that process has not been triggered. I was contemplating/we were all looking to see whether to can trigger it or starting the procedures today because the man was not coming to the House meetings. He’s come to this. So, we’ll have to go back and revisit it”.
We were hoping to get word from Hon. Penner himself after the House Meeting came to a closure. However, we missed that opportunity again, when Mr. Penner made an inconspicuous departure several hours before the meeting concluded.