The Office of the Leader of the Opposition is severely underfunded, Leader of the Opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) David Granger says.
However, in spite of the fiscal limitations, the coalition has accomplished a host of things since the 2011 General Elections, Granger added. During a press briefing to commemorate the coalition’s third anniversary yesterday, Granger denied that adequate work has not been done. “I do not agree with anyone that our work has not been adequate over the last 30 months. We have achieved a lot more than has been achieved in the last 20 years,” he said.
Granger said that more work is only possible with the financial means to adequately staff the office. “There are certain deficiencies in the National Assembly for example, even if we are to draft a bill we don’t have draftsmen…” Granger stated.
In 2014, just over $15 million was allocated for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. In 2013, the amount was $13 million, up from $8 million in 2012. For perspective, the Office of the First Lady is given $10 million for special projects. Members of the opposition have said that the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is being starved of funding to adequately address the scope of work that is required. In 2010 and 2011 respectively, $10 million was budgeted per year for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.
Granger stressed that the Office is not properly staffed to fulfill all its functions. He highlighted that APNU’s ten shadow ministers are tasked with two or more ministries and there are no allowances provided for support staff to be hired.
Granger stressed that for the last two years, the opposition has been working to ensure greater autonomy at the parliamentary level. “Up to now, we do not feel that the National Assembly is sufficiently independent from the Office of the President,” he added. Granger stated that more work needs to be done to ensure that the three branches of government operate independently and the battle is ongoing. According to the APNU leader, within the last three years, APNU has been building a foundation to secure parliamentary autonomy but “there is a war going on in which the executive is still trying to un-dermine the legislative branch.”
Meanwhile, APNU’s Chair-man and head of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Dr Rupert Roopnaraine echoed Granger’s sentiments stating that the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is “very under resourced.”
“We don’t have armies of technicians (at) our disposal, we don’t have the resources we need to properly shadow these ministries,” Roopnaraine said. He stressed that it would be impossible to meet the various demands of the public simply because the opposition is not in charge of the treasury. He said that to have an effective opposition, there needs to be funding for the office.
Roopnaraine stated that with the “meagre resources,” the opposition has been able to probe and ask for a vastly improved level of transparency in relation to government business. He said that it is the case now more than ever, the public is being told about the inner workings of government business and there is a rise in popular expectation “because the people know so much more.” According to Roopnaraine, under the new parliamentary dispensation, questions are regularly being asked of ministers when this was never the case prior to the opposition’s one-seat majority in the National Assembly.
Moving forward, the party committed to “enhance governmental accountability and to accelerate national development.”