Contrary to Singh, Nandlall and Luncheon’s statements Chief Justice’s decision was not final in the Budget cuts case
The Attorney General, the Minister of Finance and the Head of the Presidential Secretariat have been busy distorting the decision in the Budget cuts case to mislead the public. They appear to use their flawed interpretation as the basis for continuing payments to party comrades like Mr Reepu Daman Persaud, Ms Gail Teixeira and Mr Kwame McCoy, in violation of a vote by the National Assembly.
On the day Mr Ian Chang, Chief Justice (ag) delivered, to use his own words, “his views,” the Attorney General Mr Anil Nandlall went from the court, via the Office of the President, to NCN to shout victory.
And in the 2012 mid-year report Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh presented recently, he said that “The [National] Assembly was later deemed by the Courts of Guyana to have acted outside its constitutional remit in inflicting those cuts to the budget.”
Not to be left out, Dr Luncheon was quoted in the press on September 7, 2012 as saying that “the $1 that was approved by the opposition for the various agencies was totally inconsistent with the constitutional provision as ruled by the Chief Justice.”
Let us turn to the Chief Justice’s decision. He rejected the application of the Attorney General and denied the Minister of Finance the “liberty” to make advances/ withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund to restore the $21 billion 2012 budget cuts, except for the sum of $99,000,000 for the ERC. The reason for restoring the amount for the ERC, according to the Chief Justice, is that it is a constitutional body subject to a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund. Accordingly, its budget allocation was not subject to a vote of the National Assembly.
And let us be reminded that the Chief Justice concluded his decision with the words that the matter brought by Mr Nandlall is in its “preliminary stage” and that “the views expressed at this juncture are not final.” The misinterpretation suggests that the three do not have any regard for the truth, respect for the court, or deference for the National Assembly, the only body with the power over the spending of public funds. We may be tempted to discount Mr Nandlall and Dr Luncheon as ineffective political spinners. Not so Dr Singh. He controls the public purse of Guyana and the records show that he has not been unwilling to play around with the Contingencies Fund and the dormant bank accounts to the tune of billions of dollars.
So when Dr Luncheon announces in last month that “no one lost their jobs” and that “Contingency funds were approved and funds made available belatedly but still available to meet the wages and salaries of the contract workers [at OP].” it is time to get worried. Because, if that is so, the Minister of Finance is in violation of not one but two Acts – his own amended 2012 Budget Act and the Fiscal Management and Account-ability Act, under the pretext of a misrepresentation of the court’s decision.
The question now is whether, after a prolonged break, the political opposition can muster the capacity and the courage to confront with all the powers at their disposal, the continuing lawless manner in which the country’s public funds have been mismanaged and misspent by Dr Singh, assured of a pliant and ineffective Audit Office.