The Alliance For Change (AFC) has stepped up calls for changes that would allow a number of Government agencies to come under closer monetary scrutiny.
This is to ensure that monies gathered from the various agencies are paid into the government’s central coffers – the Consolidated Fund.
The issue was raised during the party’s weekly press briefing at the Side Walk Café, Middle Street on Wednesday.
Asked to comment on complaints that several hinterland communities were not benefitting from the gold rush with roads and other infrastructure in poor state in many areas, AFC’s Vice Chairman Moses Nagamootoo was highly critical.
He expressed concern that the monies being collected from the extractive sector managed by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are not being placed in the Government’s central account. GGMC is the government regulator charged with managing the mining industry, collecting fees and royalties.
Under the law, all monies to be spent from the Consolidated Fund have to be approved by the National Assembly. The Opposition, following the November 2011 General and Regional Elections had gained a one-seat majority in the House and have been questioning spending.
Several agencies, like the Guyana Energy Agency, the Guyana Forestry, the Lotto Fund and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), have been coming under the microscope.
Annually, the agencies have been handling billions from fees and royalties and in the case of NICIL, sale of Governments assets, with the Opposition accusing Government of using these monies like a slush fund.
The Opposition has criticised and questioned decisions by Government to spend from NICIL to build the Marriott Hotel and even pay for critical expenses for the Amaila Falls hydro project.
Investments in the Berbice Harbour Bridge have also come under fire for not being approved by the National Assembly.
According to the Member of Parliament, the monies should be channeled into the revenue stream (Consolidated Fund) and used in an “equitable way” to service the nation.
There have been growing complaints of the state of hinterland roads, many of them used by miners, loggers, farmers as well as residents.
The argument has been that because the hinterland communities have been generating significant earnings for the country, investments of similar nature should be plugged back in.
Gold for the past three years has been the biggest foreign currency earner for Guyana with production this year surpassing the highest declaration recorded.
According to figures released by Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud, on Tuesday, the gold production recorded as at December 16, 2013 amounted to 458,105 ounces; surpassing the previous highest level in 2011 when the gold declared amounted to 455,918.
Logging activities, though not on the same level as gold production in terms of employment, have also been providing significant employment for especially Amerindians. There have been calls for that industry to also spend monies in equal fashion in the hinterlands.
According to Nagamootoo, the monies should “be used for the benefit and purpose of the people”, not only in mining communities but across the board where there is need.
“Of course roads are very important, not only in interior areas… In some of the communities where we have farmers producing and they don’t have access to the network of roads and other forms of communication to get their produce to the market; because that, for us, is very important for the livelihood of our Guyanese people,” the politician said.
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