By Gary Eleazar
Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, committed a crime when he illegally spent $4.5B from the coffers when the National Assembly had expressly denied approval for such expenditure when it was considered in April last.
This is according to Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, himself a practicing Attorney at Law.
According to Ramjattan, despite the matter being in the public domain, he will be preparing a formal complaint to be submitted to the Guyana Police Force.
He explained that he will be taking this course of action since in previous times when illegalities are uncovered and made public, the Police would in response say that no formal complaint was lodged with them.
Ramjattan is adamant that what the Finance Minister did when he expended the $4.5B, is criminal.
He said that the Finance Minister’s resort to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) does not hold matter, and further Dr. Singh is eminently qualified to know this.
According to Ramjattan, approval to spend monies from the coffers can only come through authorization from Parliament.
He said that while the FMAA does allow the Minister to spend monies from the Contingencies Fund prior to receiving parliamentary approval, this is only for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.
He used as an example a hypothetical Tsunami hitting Guyana.
According to Ramjattan, should this occur, the Finance Minister would justifiably be able to access the Contingencies Fund and be able to legally spend money prior to receiving approval from the House.
According to Ramjattan, the National Assembly has already considered and voted against the spending of the money that Dr. Singh has spent such as expenditure for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the Specialty Hospital, the National Communications Network and the Government Information Agency (GINA), among others.
Over the weekend, Head of State Donald Ramotar sought to defend the use of the voted down money and pointed to Article 218 (3) of the Constitution.
That article reads: “No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund other than the Consolidated Fund unless the issue of those moneys has been authorized by or under an Act of Parliament.”
The only bit of legislation authorizing the use of money from the Consolidated Fund for 2014 was the Appropriation Bill, more commonly referred to as the Budget, but this was approved minus the expenditure that Dr. Singh detailed recently in the National Assembly, namely the Statement of Excess.
A Partnership for National Unit (APNU) has already publicly voiced its displeasure over the actions of the Finance Minister and has called for his prosecution.
APNU’s Joseph Harmon, said that the time is close where persons responsible for the expenditure of public monies, must face the courts for infractions.
“I don’t think there should be any dancing around this point…If you take public money and you spend it in your own way, you should face the music.”
According to Harmon, Guyanese will have to require that this is done.
He was adamant that Ministers who take taxpayers’ dollars and spend it as if it were their own without the approval of the National Assembly “should also face the court and I believe that Dr. Ashni Singh should be on his way there.”
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