…hints at legal action against former regime for abuse of Contingencies Fund
Answering questions on the wastage of taxpayers’ money under the previous regime was found by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, to be a most “ironic” position to be placed in.
He made this comment during the consideration of the Financial Paper Number Two for Statement of Excess (Current and Capital ) totaling $6.5B for the period January 1, 2012 to June 16, 2014.
During the debate in the Committee of Supply yesterday, it was found that under the Office of the President, $582M was voted for the agency yet $217M was spent from the Contingencies Fund. This sum was spent on Government Information Agency (GINA) and the National Communications Network (NCN).
The remarks in the financial paper revealed that GINA received a subsidy of $135.9M while $81.3M was given as a subsidy to NCN.
Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence, took to the floor and asked for Nagamootoo, the Minister of Information, to state what was the financial standing of NCN and GINA during that period, what warranted the need for the money spent and whether the entities were making a loss.
To this Nagamootoo responded, “This is the greatest political irony…They squander and we have to answer.”
The Prime Minister was unable at the time to say whether GINA and NCN were making a profit or loss during that time but noted however that the $217M subsidy was indeed exorbitant. He said that the onus on the House is to now pass the monies so that the Contingencies Fund may be replenished after which, “accountability will be sought judicially and otherwise.”
The Contingencies Fund is an account for which Government is only supposed to tap into in the case of an emergency or an instance where monies were not appropriated.
Former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali, then challenged the First Vice President to justify his accusation that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) squandered money during that period.
Nagamootoo retorted that both entities were used as “propaganda machines”. He said that since the entities were misused in that regard, that in itself, shows that monies were wasted for the wrong purpose. The Prime Minister once again hinted at Government taking legal action for the abuse of the Contingencies Fund.
He said, “We have to continue this (debate) for accounting purposes but the law will take its course after.”
Apart from the contentions over the monies which were spent on the two communication agencies, the Financial Paper was passed with few questions being asked. The Committee of Supplies approved of the motion and the National Assembly voted.
Prior to Government’s accession to Office, it had chided both agencies for unfair coverage.
Minister of Tourism, Catherine Hughes, had argued during the 2012 budget debates that the operations of entities, “represented a misuse of taxpayers” dollars.
According to Hughes, “It is clear that NCN under the PPP, did not fulfill the mandate of a public service or national broadcaster and therefore should not be receiving together with GINA, a total of more than $211M” as was outlined in the 2012 budget estimates.
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