– It is most likely going towards enriching the friends of the PPP- Greenidge
By Abena Rockcliffe
Authenticated documents and reliable sources have indicated that the Lotto Fund which government continues to
withhold from the consolidated fund, according to many, “illegally” now stands at $1.3B.
A sum of 24 cents in every dollar of lottery proceeds is paid to the government. This forms the Lotto Fund which is managed by the Office of the President.
For years, the parliamentary opposition and the Office of the Auditor General have been trying to get the government to place the Lotto funds into the Consolidated Fund, but these efforts have been to no avail.
Therefore, the government continues to use this money without any sort of scrutiny. But even with the unaccountable spending, the fund has $1.3B which is a little less than the amount it stood at in 2002.
Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran had, during his tenure, pronounced on the matter in strong terms. Goolsarran stated in numerous reports that he had cause to highlight the Ministry of Finance’s failure to pay over government’s share of the proceeds of the Guyana Lotteries to the Consolidated Fund. These funds were instead paid to a special bank account and this was used to meet public expenditure without parliamentary approval, the report said.
Goolsarran had recommended in the 2003 report that the Ministry of Finance take appropriate measures to close the bank account in which the Lotto monies were being held and transfer the balance to the Consolidated Fund.
Auditor General Anand Goolsarran was given all assurances by former President Bharrat Jagdeo that supplementary estimates would be presented in the National Assembly to ensure parliamentary approval of the expenditure and recording in the public accounts of funds from lotto proceeds.
Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, promised to regularize the use of the lotto funds in deference to Goolsarran’s position at the time, that all public revenues must be paid into the Consolidated Fund and expenditure from lottery proceeds had to be
appropriated through parliament.
In an invited comment, Alliance For Change General Secretary, David Patterson, said that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government, while it remains in office, needs to strive to be more accountable. He noted that the constitution was clear that all revenues or monies received by the government must be placed into the Consolidated Fund.
When contacted, former Minister of Finance, Carl Greenidge reiterated the view that has long been expressed, that the Lotto Fund rightfully belongs in the Consolidated Fund.
He stressed that $1.3B is a significant amount of money, relative to the annual national budget.
Greenidge told Kaieteur News that it is a fact that the poor are made to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of taxation. He said that the Lotto Fund should be urgently placed in the Consolidated Fund and be used to bring relief to the poor in the form of meaningful projects.
As he pointed to the fact that the spending is being determined solely by the Office of the President, he said that the money is “most likely going towards enriching the friends of the PPP.”
Though Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that the court had ruled that Government had not acted unconstitutionally by not placing the proceeds from the Lotto Fund into the Consolidated Fund, Greenidge, who also chairs the Public Accounts Committee, ordered the Auditor General to seek “independent” legal advice in this regard.
Greenidge had said that as it relates to the Lotto and Cricket Funds, the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, was asked to seek legal opinion as to whether it should go into the Consolidated Fund.
Greenidge said that the Committee was divided on the matter, as those who represent the interest of the government
communicated that the matter was already dealt with at the level of the court and as such they were not in agreement with the Auditor General being told to seek independent legal advice.
Over the years, the proceeds from the Lotto have been used to fund the President’s Youth Choice Initiative (PYCI), a youth project scheme that has been criticized for being ill-timed and poorly executed.
An Auditor General report had noted that in one year, sums totaling over $800M have been spent on a number of projects without parliamentary approval. But Article 217 of the Constitution reads: “All revenues or other monies raised or received by the Government (not being revenues or other monies that are payable, by or under an Act of Parliament, into some other fund established for any specific purpose or that may, by or under such an Act, be retained by the authority that received them for the purpose of defraying the expenses of that authority) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Fund.”
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