It appears as if the Government of Guyana has no intention of ceasing their abuse of our Parliamentary democracy and of the public purse. In a whole-page ad published in the Stabroek News on November 9, 2014 titled: ‘Statement on Parliamentary Situation’ they brazenly declare that Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh ‘restored monies cut from the 2014 National Budget’ in keeping with ‘the ruling of the Hon. Chief Justice pursuant to the relevant provisions in the Constitution of Guyana.’
Firstly, it needs to be noted that monies were not ‘cut’ from the 2014 Budget as is alleged. Rather, a number of proposed expenditure were dis-approved by the National Assembly during their consideration of the Minister’s proposal or Estimates of Expenditure. A ‘Budget’ only becomes a reality based on an Appropriation Bill that the Minister brings to the National Assembly.
Such a Bill is normally introduced following consideration of the Estimates and includes items approved by the National Assembly meeting in Committee of Supply. The Appropriation Bill brought to the House on April 16, 2014 (on or about 19:50 hours) by Minister Singh was an amended version of the one previously printed and dated 25th March, 2014. The Minister’s Bill then became legal when it became the Appropriation Act 2014 (Act No. 10 of 2014) following Presidential assent on 30th April, 2014 (the last possible date under the law).
Against the foregoing, Dr. Ashni Singh has no authority to unilaterally ‘restore’ any item of expenditure. To do so is both lawless and madness. It is to invite anarchy.
In any event, Financial Paper No. 1/2014 –Statement of Excess (laid on 19th June, 2014) and Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2014, Bill No. 12 of 2014 seeks the approval of the House specifically ‘in accordance with article 219 of the Constitution and sections 24 and 41 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003[FMAA].’
Neither sections 24 and 41 of the FMAA are relevant in the circumstances as the former requires approval ‘prior to spending’ and the latter requires expenditure that is ‘unavoidable and unforeseen. ’Neither applies.
The Constitutional article [219. (2)] that the Minister seeks comfort and refuge in requires the Assembly’s approval. The Minister can only be motivated to act as he does on either of two premises. Firstly, it would be to see the thirty three Members of the Assembly as ‘rubber stamps’ or mannequins, there waiting to endorse any action of his. Speaking for myself, I resent the imputation. Secondly, given that the House refused the Minister’s initial request, what causes him to believe that they will accede now?
Further, the Minister’s reckless, ill-advised and unlawful conduct can be appreciated by further examination of article 219 under which he seeks to shelter. This article is premised on the preceding one, i.e. 218. Article 218. (3), however, and in relation to any ‘statement of excess’ says: ‘If in respect of any financial year it is found’, clearly establishing that it refers only to reacting to a finding and not a pro-active situation, the latter being the case relating to the expenditure in question. Indeed it is simple English as one is not normally expected to foresee excesses! The Government has no grounds to stand on.
That the Government asserts, as they do in the aforementioned ad that they are acting ‘lawfully and democratically’ shows that they have completely lost their moral compass. They now seek to operate in a zone of lawlessness.
The Constitution does not provide that a government can spend without Parliamentary approval and any prorogation of the National Assembly would not alter or affect this.
President Ramotaraught to consider this before he decides on which option he will exercise of those in his threats announced on 4th November, 2014. My opinion is that while he does have cover, however flimsy, under the Constitution, to prorogue the National Assembly his Government would be bereft of any lawful authority to access the Consolidated Fund, which is only provided for in the event of a dissolution [article 219. (3).
The orgy of corruption, incompetence, discriminatory behaviour, victimization and other excesses of the PPPC has to be brought to an end. How soon will it be? The people are not likely to allow Donald Ramotar or the PPP to operate as a Government in hiding.
Ronald Bulkan, M.P.
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