May 15, 2016 News
Several Financial Analysts are of the opinion that the one-year-old APNU/AFC administration has already made the grievous mistake of taking moneys from the Contingencies Fund which do not meet the stipulated criteria.
In this regard, they were referring to the Financial Paper which was recently laid in the National Assembly by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan. The Paper seeks to clear advances made from the Contingencies Fund in the sum of $799M for the period, September 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. The Analysts stressed that the Contingencies Fund is only supposed to be used to meet expenses that are, “urgent, unavoidable and unforeseen.”
They noted that while some of the advancements listed on the Financial Paper, do not meet the criteria, based on the explanations, they can be excused or pardoned. They noted however that there is no “urgency” for the APNU/AFC Government to be taking $48M in order to purchase furniture and equipment for the Ministry of the Presidency and the State House.
That sum also catered for the installation of 6000 solar systems. The voted provision for this in the 2015 Budget was $43M. The analysts said that this is a clear case of abuse of the Contingencies Fund. The officials also highlighted a $77M advancement from the said Fund for the provision of salary increase and one off tax free payment for the University of Guyana at the Turkeyen and Tain locations. The voted provision for this was $684M.
The Finance Minister was informed of the said criticisms and asked to say whether he agrees. Jordan told this publication that he is not of the opinion that the advances made amount to the abuse of the Contingencies Fund. He recalled that Government entered office in May, 2015 and its first budget was presented in August.
The Minister said that a number of ministries were changed along with a few additions. He said that further explanations on the advancements made will be done in the National Assembly.
The abuse of the Contingencies Fund is one that has been well documented by the country’s Auditor General, Deodat Sharma.
In one of his reports, Sharma pointed to the abuse of amounts totaling over $550M drawn from the Fund and utilized to meet expenditures that did not meet the eligibility criteria as defined in the laws. In his 2012 report, he said that $95.661M in advances was illegally drawn from the Fund.
For the year 2013, he reported that $510M was withdrawn from the Contingencies Fund which did not meet the specified criteria. The 2014 report once again flagged the inappropriate use of the Fund under the previous administration, as $962M was withdrawn without meeting the specified criteria.
Over the years, the abuse of the Contingencies Fund was a topical issue for A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change when they served as the Parliamentary opposition.
AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan had emphasized on several occasions that the National Assembly is the first device or mechanism for which emergency advances can be protected from abuse.
The politician had asserted, “The (PPP) has been abusing its understanding of the criteria of an emergency under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. When we run to the Fund it is only to be used for emergency cases, like if there is a serious flood in Mahaicony and we need to remove citizens. Money would be used in that case.”
He had even appealed for the former President, Donald Ramotar, to assent to the amendment made to the FMA Act.
The Public Security Minister was also one who constantly called for sanctions to be imposed against former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh for his abuse of the Contingencies Fund.
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