There was a fair degree of banter in the National Assembly yesterday as the Opposition grilled the various Ministers as it relates to their requests totaling almost $7B
The supplementary requests were spearheaded by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh who tabled Financial Paper Three for 2010 seeking approval to spend almost $2 billion and Financial Paper Four seeking some $4.9 billion.
The first query, by Opposition Leader Robert Corbin was for the expenditure associated with Guyana’s hosting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) which was recently concluded. That request was for $93,106,340.
Corbin questioned why it was that the money had to be requested, and asked whether it reflected bad planning as it relates to the National Budget, given that it was known at the time that Guyana would be hosting the summit.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said that it would have been difficult to plan for the event at that time since the delegations’ sizes were unknown. She did undertake to provide the Opposition Leader with a breakdown of how the money was spent.
Dr. Singh had blasted Corbin for some of his comments made about the manner in the way the money was spent, stressing that it had done in conformity with the law.
The majority of the objections that the opposition had was not related to the actual expenditure but queried whether there was bad planning on the part of the various ministries and the finance ministry
Seventy million ($70M) was requested by the Finance Minister on behalf of the Guyana Defence Force to “purchase accommodation items for the force.”
For the Guyana Police Force (GPF) there was a request for $30M to meet expenditure associated with increased fuel prices and the intensification of mobile patrols in and around the city. Also for the GPF was a request for $24M to meet expenditure incurred during the ICC 20/20 World Cup Competition for the feeding of ranks inlying.
That competition was held in April and May of this year and Home Affairs Minister assured that all of the ranks have been paid.
As it relates to the Amerindian Development Fund there was a request for $198M in addition to an earlier voted provision of $100M.
There was also a request on behalf of the Office of the President for $224.6 million to provide security and ICT equipment to the National Intelligence Centre.
This attracted a bit of criticism from Corbin who asked why in December, with a few days remaining, the budget agency would want in excess of $200M, saying if it is for the purchase of sensitive equipment, that could not be done overnight. He wondered if the manner in which the request was made was geared at concealing something.
Jennifer Webster, the Junior Finance Minister, explained that they were expanding the programme. She said that it would now include the installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Systems around the city and on the main highways.
She added that this would be done to protect the infrastructure. “It is being done in the interest of national security.”
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister requested $147.4M to set up an Educational Television Broadcast Service. This new television station will be housed at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston and will be managed by an oversight committee.
Education Minister Shaik Baksh stated that the television station should be up and running by the end of the first quarter of next year.
There were also requests by several ministries under the headline “provision additional inflows”
This request was to the tune of several hundred millions, such as $235M for the Finance Ministry and $140M for the Ministry of Education.
There is also a $3.7 billion request for the Ministry of Housing and Water for development in new housing areas and improvement to existing housing areas.
One hundred fifty-three days after Guyana’s largest ever ($143B) budget was approved in the National Assembly, the Finance Minister had moved to the House seeking approval for an additional $2.4 billion in Supplementary Provisions.
The resort to Financial Supplementary papers has long been criticised.
Members of the Opposition have been questioning the validity of the manner in which the monies are used, given that the expenditure, according to them, does not fit the criteria.
Section 41 (3) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability 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 monies have been appropriated or for which the sum appropriated is insufficient;
(b) for which monies cannot be reallocated as provided for under this Act; or
(c) which cannot be deferred without injury to the public interest, and may approve a Contingencies Fund advance as an expenditure out of the Consolidated Fund by the issuance of a drawing right.”
The most recent controversy on the use of the Supplementary Provisions related to a $4B allocation to the Housing Ministry.
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