On Sunday, leader of the People’s National Congress Reform and Parliamentary Opposition leader Robert Corbin said that the majority of the requested US$25M by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh has already been spent and the Parliamentary process was now only to rectify the books.
The Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act of Guyana 2003 provides for the Finance Minister to withdraw from the Contingencies Fund and seek Parliamentary approval later, but he may have overstepped the boundaries of the confines of the law on this occasion, according to a financial analyst.
Section 41 (3) of the FMA Act says that the Finance Minister who is the sole authority to do so, may make such a withdrawal, “when satisfied that an urgent, unavoidable and unforeseen need for expenditure has arisen
– (a) for which no moneys have been appropriated or for which the sum appropriated is insufficient;
(b) for which moneys cannot be reallocated as provided for under this Act; or
(c) which cannot be deferred without injury to the public interest, may approve a Contingencies Fund advance as an expenditure out of the Consolidated Fund by the issuance of a drawing right.”
These are the first criteria upon which the Finance Minister may withdraw monies in addition to section 41 (4) of the said FMA Act which says that the total of the amounts permitted to be drawn from the Contingencies Fund pursuant to subsection 41 (3) shall not exceed two percent of the estimated annual expenditure of the last preceding fiscal year as shown in the annual budget proposal approved by the National Assembly or such greater sum as the National Assembly may approve.
The legislation also states in the section 41 (5) that the Finance Minister shall report at the next sitting of the National Assembly on all advances made out of the Contingencies Fund since the previous report of the Minister.
That report to the House must specify the amounts advanced, to whom the amounts were paid and the purpose of the advances.
After these stipulations have been met section 41 (6) states that, “Upon the National Assembly approving the Contingencies Fund advance or advances and passing a supplementary appropriation Act covering such advance or advances – (a) the drawing right or rights authorising the advance or advances, if not then utilised, shall lapse and the advance or advances shall be deemed to have been made for the purpose of the appropriation and shall be accounted for accordingly; and the amount of such advance or advances shall be added back to the total amount authorised by the National Assembly.
“Upon the National Assembly approving the advance or advances, the Contingencies Fund shall be replenished in the amounts approved.”
The Minister has requested in the Financial Papers Three and Four of 2009 monies to the tune of some US$25M which is about double the amount that is permissible under section 41 (4) of the FMA Act providing that it met the criteria as set out in section 41 (3).
Further, given that the majority of this money, according to Corbin, has already been spent, then the Finance Minister also possibly did not comply with section 41 (5) of the legislation and report the withdrawals at the very next sitting of the National Assembly.
When contacted for a comment on the apparent violations of the FMA Act, leader of the opposition Robert Corbin said that his party has exposed this violation in Parliament on every occasion that supplementary provisions were brought over the past years.
“The illegalities have not influenced the (Bharrat) Jagdeo regime to correct their behaviour…Instead the arrogance of the President now emulated by the Minister of Finance has resulted in the continuous breach of the law…The PNCR will deal with this issue in the National Assembly on Thursday next.”
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