Oct 18, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The use of the Contingency Fund by Finance Ministers over the years has been an issue of much contention.
In fact, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma had criticised the former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh on numerous occasions for what he perceived to be the abuse of a Fund that is only to be used in a case of extreme emergency, national importance, and when there has been no prior monetary allocation for the unforeseen circumstance.
Sharma said that he found the current Government guilty of continued abuse of the Fund as it accessed over $600M for “routine” expenses.
The Auditor Sharma said that it was disappointing to note that the money was granted, even though it did not meet the required criteria.
Even though Auditor General (AG) is designated the role of being the protector of the nation’s purse, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said that he does not owe Sharma an explanation. In fact, he went as far as to say that Sharma’s views on the “abuse’ of the Fund do not matter.
The Finance Minister made this comment during a press conference yesterday.
There, he emphasised that the Constitution deems the Minister of Finance as the sole individual who will determine the emergency for which he can dip his hand into the Contingency Fund.
“In this, he does not have to consult with the Auditor General. Being a member of Cabinet, he consults with the Members of Cabinet…Whether the AG wishes to determine what I have done, whether it was an emergency or not, that is his interpretation. It doesn’t count under the law,” the Finance Minister said.
He continued, “It is the Minister of Finance who determines that…so you can’t come six months afterwards and tell me that the motor car that I bought with money from the Contingency Fund is not an emergency.”
The Finance Minister said, “You don’t know the circumstances that gave rise to the situation. He never came to me and asked me. I am the only person he can ask seeking an explanation on it, but I don’t have to explain anything to the Auditor General. I have to explain to the Parliament. So going around saying that the government can’t account for $600M or $500M or $400M is just playing to the gallery as far as I am concerned.”
The economist stressed that for last year, there was one request by the Government to access the Contingency Fund for the May to December period. He said that the request only represented 0.36 percent of its budget last year.
For similar periods in 2011, he said that requests and advances made, represented 4.8 percent of the budget; 2.77 percent in 2012; 1.13 percent in 2013; and 1.2 percent in 2014.
“For this year, there has been one request and so shall it remain,” the Finance Minister said.
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