Opposition to vote against unapproved $4.6B gov’t spending

The parliamentary opposition yesterday signaled that it will not approve government’s $4.6 billion excess expenditure from the Consolidated Fund when it comes up for a vote at the next parliamentary sitting.

APNU executive Joseph Harmon and AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan both said their respective groups, which command a combined one-seat majority in the National Assembly, would not supply the needed votes to approve the $4,553,991 in supplemental spending.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh last week tabled government’s Financial Paper for the expenditure, which covers allocations cut from the proposed 2014 national budget. Of the total amount, $66.4 million went to the Government Information Agency (GINA), $32.6 to the National Communication Network (NCN) and $306 million to the controversial Amerindian Development Fund (ADF). Additionally, $225 million went towards the Student Loan Fund, while over $1 billion went towards the continuation of work on the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Modernisation Project.

Joseph Harmon
Joseph Harmon

Singh said the decision to spend the amounts was based on a ruling by Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang to the effect that the National Assembly has no authority to cut the budget. He also said government’s decision is informed by provisions in the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act.

Both opposition groups have condemned government spending in defiance of expressed disapproval by the National Assembly and they have promised to retaliate in one form or another.

However it was only yesterday that definitive positions were stated. Harmon told reporters during a media briefing yesterday that main opposition APNU will definitely not support the approval of the expenditure.

Reiterating the sentiments of several other coalition members, Harmon deemed Finance Minister Singh’s actions unconstitutional and suggested that actions will be taken again him soon. He also said it is likely the coalition will seek to have Singh referred to the Committee of Privileges, again.

 Ashni Singh
Ashni Singh

Singh was first referred to the committee in February for matters surrounding his failure to comply with a parliamentary resolution that required him to provide reports on extra-budgetary agencies, and to pay all monies being held by such agencies into the Consolidated Fund.

Harmon has acknowledged, however, that the Privileges Committee has met just once on the matter since February, owing to several complications. He says APNU will seek to expedite the committee’s work where Singh is concerned.

Meanwhile, Ramjattan has also stated, definitively, that the AFC will not support the expenditure when the matter arises during the next sitting. “Absolutely not, it is criminal and illegal,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News during an interview last evening. He says what Singh has done on three occasions – proceed to spend amounts cut in 2012, 2013, and 2014 – amounts “daylight robbery of the Treasury” and that he needs to be held accountable.

The Finance Minister has argued that Section 41 of the FMA Act, which gives him the authority to use the Contingencies Fund with initiative, justifies his expenditure. The opposition parties though, as well as other observers, including analyst Christopher Ram, believes the minister is trying to twist the legislative provision to cover what they see as illegal spending.

Questions linger though, on what will become of the spent amounts if it is not approved. If the National Assembly does not approve the amount it cannot be restored to the Contingences Fund. This is similar to

Khemraj Ramjattan
Khemraj Ramjattan

what occurred the last time the minister took such action.

Since the start of the 10th Parliament the minister has laid six Financial Papers detailing his use of the Fund. The papers hold a collective value of about $9.358 billion. The combined opposition in the National Assembly has approved 92.6 percent ($8.7 billion) of this amount, and Singh has argued that this is testimony of their approval of his use of the Fund, for the most part.

Still, the expenditure of $658 million was not approved, yet nothing has been done about this amount.

Latest in Local News

Omar Shariff

Ministry of the Presidency official Shariff sent on leave pending SOCU investigation

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), Omar Shariff has been sent on leave by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, a release from MOTP said today.

default placeholder

Body found in rubble of Wales fire

At 01:30hrs today, police say that a fire destroyed a home at Wales, West Bank Demerara, and the body of an unidentified person was subsequently discovered among the rubble.

default placeholder

Exxon Mobil says second well confirms `significant’ oil find

Exxon Mobil Corporation today said that drilling results from the Liza-2 well, the second exploration well in the Stabroek block offshore Guyana, confirm a world-class find with a recoverable deposit of between 800 million and 1.4 billion oil-equivalent barrels.

default placeholder

Proposed law bans smoking in public places

Proposed tobacco control legislation will see a ban on smoking in public places while cigarette advertising will no longer be allowed and pictorial and text health warnings will have to be displayed on at least 75% of the packaging on tobacco products.

default placeholder

$800M in specialty hospital steel ‘awarded’ to BK

Government needs to explain why about $800 million worth of steel and other equipment that were earmarked for the now-frozen specialty hospital project, went solely to businessman Brian Tiwarie, former President Donald Ramotar says.

Ezekiel Murray

Truck driver jailed for three years for crash causing child’s death

Clyde Barker, the truck driver who was accused of running over 12-year-old Ezekiel Murray along the Friendship Public Road last year and causing his death, was yesterday sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.

default placeholder

Businessman jailed and fined over gun, ammo possession

A businessman was yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined $100,000 after being found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

default placeholder

Business minister ‘in denial’ over economic ‘crisis’

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin is in denial about Guyana not being in an economic crisis.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: