A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), has taken Government to court in a bid to stop what they said is the
unauthorized spending of billions of dollars- monies that were disapproved in the National Budget earlier this year.
The court application, which was filed on behalf of Opposition Leader, Brigadier David Granger, has also named Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, the Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman as the defendants. The matter comes up before Chief Justice (Ag), Ian Chang, on Monday.
Among other things, the Opposition Leader is asking for a Conservatory Order to stay all spending and/or any further spending by the Finance Minister or other Ministers designated by the President on programs disapproved or not authorized by the National Assembly until the court matter has been heard and determined.
In his claims, Granger wants the court to declare that the National Assembly, in keeping with Article 218 (2) of the Constitution, lawfully disapproved in the annual estimates of Revenue and Expenditure of 2014. This was reflected in the Appropriation Bill Number 6 of 2014 and confirmed by the Appropriation Act Number 10 of 2014.
Some $36.75B was disapproved by the Opposition-controlled National Assembly, according to the court documents released by APNU.
The disapproved monies included some $1.3B from Office of the President (OP) under its Administrative Services programme; $3.8B also from OP for capital estimates also under Administrative Services; some $22B from Ministry of Finance; $1.1B from Ministry of Amerindian Affairs’ Development Fund; $6.78B from Ministry of Public Works capital work and $1.3B from the Ministry of Health’s Regional and Clinical.
APNU is asking for a declaration that Government unlawfully spent or authorized the spending of monies despite the disapprovals. This was evidenced by a Financial Paper that Government submitted to the National Assembly in which
Minister Singh admitted that some $4.5B had been spent for the period ended June 16, 2014, “in breach of Articles 217 and 219 (2) of the Constitution and the decisions of the National Assembly to disapprove these Programmes.”
APNU wants the court to also order that the spending was “unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void, unreasonable and in breach of the doctrine of the separation of powers”.
APNU also wants the court to declare that the Finance Minister or other Ministers designated by the President cannot lawfully spend or authorize spending on programmes that have been disapproved or not authorized by the National Assembly.
APNU is also seeking a declaration that expenditure on the programs that were not approved cannot amount to a statement of excess as is being argued by Government.
APNU’s arguments were prepared by Rex McKay, Senior Counsel and attorneys-at-law Basil Williams, Hewley Griffith, Lawrence Harris, Michael Somersaul, Joseph Harmon, James Bond, LLewellyn John and Bettina Glasford.
The authority of the National Assembly to cut or reduce the National Budget has been a sore issue for two years now after the Opposition-controlled Parliament moved to blocked monies for a number of controversial projects and programmes.
They wanted answers how the monies were being spent.
The disapproval affected agencies such as the Government Information Agency (GINA) and the National Communications Network (NCN) and projects including the Specialty Hospital, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Expansion Project and the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
Government had gone to court last year and based on a ruling by the Chief Justice had interpreted that to mean that Parliament could not cut or disapprove the National Budget.
However, the Opposition has objected saying that the National Assembly indeed had powers …and this was intended by
the architects of the Constitution when it wrote that the National Budget has to come before the floors of the House.
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