Feb 23, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Several discrepancies within the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) have been uncovered following independent research by Kaieteur News and the most recent finding pinpoints that it received over $500M in budgetary allocations while being inoperable for seven years.
The ERC was established on March 8, 2002, with the aim of promoting ethnic harmony and security in Guyana.
The non-political body that comprises representatives from religious bodies, labour movements and the private business sector had operated up until 2011 when its mandate, and by extension the work of its commissioners, expired. It became operable again on February 22, 2018, when it was reconstituted and saw the swearing-in of 10 new commissioners by former president David Granger. The forgoing details are clearly outlined on the Commission’s website.
Despite being inoperable from 2011 to 2018, budget estimates, seen by this publication, reveal that the Commission would have received $504M in those seven years, leaving two significant questions: What was the money spent on?; and: Who presided over the spending?
Based on the budget estimates, in 2012, the year after becoming inoperable, it received a $99.4M budgetary allocation. In 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 the allocations were $49.9M, $63.7M, $43.1M, $81.4M and $50.5M respectively. Then in 2018, the allocation was $115.7M.
Further, budget estimates after 2015 show little to no information on what the allocations catered for.
However, this publication previously reported that in 2015, the former coalition government had amended the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA), which allowed constitutional agencies like the ERC to have independence with their allocations. Before the coalition’s amendment, constitutional agencies had their budgetary allocations placed under scrutiny by their subject Minister.
The PPP government recently moved to yet again amend the Act stating that the coalition’s amendment has removed billions of dollars from Parliamentary scrutiny that by law could only be spent after scrutiny. Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, during the tabling of the Bill said, “The amendment (by the Coalition) laid out a two-stage process whereby the budget of the constitutional agencies would be brought to the National Assembly, considered and approved by the Assembly, and incorporated into the national budget, which would subsequently be submitted to the House for consideration, at which time the budget of the constitutional agencies, would not be reconsidered, but would form part of the national budget.”
His amendment has removed that two-step process and now allows for a single process of submission to the National Assembly since the Bill has been passed.
Additionally, an ERC Commissioner, Haji Roshan Khan, is of the firm conviction that there is a dire need for a governmental audit rather than a private audit that may skip over where value leakage of public funds is taking place.
The Chairman of the ERC, Reverend John Smith, was contacted by Kaieteur News last Thursday regarding discrepancies that were highlighted by Khan. He had promised to issue a press statement to address the claims. It was noted that the release would be issued the following day but none was issued.
In a further bid to get a response from the Chairman, this publication reached out yet again yesterday and was told a response is currently being prepared which has to be fact-checked to ensure maximum accuracy.
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