A push by Government to pass reduced budgets for the constitutional agencies hit a bump in the road when the Opposition sought to introduced a motion to have the requested funds fully restored.
The first agency budget that was debated yesterday was that of the Parliament Office which requested $1.8B to carry out its work in 2019.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, stated that given the economic outlook for next year and other factors, Government could only fund the agency $1.7B. Before that amount could be voted on, Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira introduced a Motion to restore the agency’s request.
Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, argued that the ‘House should not entertain a Motion which is of course wasting precious Parliamentary time’. According to Nagamootoo, only the Cabinet of Guyana can make a recommendation to restore funding.
“It cannot be the fiat of the Opposition from the Opposition benches which this Motion is trying to do,” Nagamootoo stated. The reduced funding was eventually approved by the House. The same obtained for other agencies.
It was in 2015, that a significant piece of legislation geared at allowing key bodies financial independence was passed in the National Assembly. That legislation was the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2015.
It allows for lump sum payments to be made to constitutional agencies thereby making them free from the automatic obligations and the discretionary powers exercised by the Minister of Finance.
Jordan had explained that there are checks and balances in place to ensure that abuse does not take place, as annual reports and audited financial statements will be required to be prepared and presented.
Jordan made it clear that the bodies must enjoy fiscal autonomy so that they can serve the Guyanese people. He said that it will prevent the executive from micro-managing the finances of budgetary agencies.
Under previous arrangements, the bodies were at the mercy of the ministries, having to apply for simple things like monies to travel. The new arrangements serve to boost public confidence in the offices.
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