AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan has urged the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to put to Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh the allegation that he “contravened” the Fiscal Management and Account-ability (FMA) Act when he “improperly disposed” of $4.533 billion earlier this year
In an escalation of the campaign by the AFC against spending not cleared by the National Assembly, a nine-page “Complaint and Brief” was delivered by Ramjattan to the police yesterday.
The parliamentary row over the expenditure has brought to the country to the brink of a motion of no-confidence against the government that can trigger fresh elections.
“I make a formal complaint and report that the Minister and other officials in his Ministry have committed a violation of the provisions of the FMA Act 2003. He has spent monies without having obtained legislative authorization…he and these other officials in the relevant ministries have expended $4.533 billion up to June 16th, 2014…this constitutes a misusing, a misapplication, or an improper disposal of public monies …,” Ramjattan writes.
These complaints, Ramjattan said in the document, amounts to an “accusation made against Minister Ashni Singh and other Government officials…”
“Exactly this kind of misconduct is made an offence under the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act 2003 by a conjoint application of sections 48 and 85 thereof,” Ramjattan says. Section 48 says: “A Minister or official shall not in any manner misuse, or improperly dispose of public monies,” while Section 85 says: “An official who knowingly permits any other person to contravene any provision of this Act is guilty of an indictable offence and liable on conviction to a fine of $2,000,000 and imprisonment for 3 years.”
Criminal liability can therefore befall the minister and those under him if it is determined that they went against the above-mentioned legislation, he says.
Ramjattan also told the police that Singh breached article 217 which outlines all the conditions under which funds are to be withdrawn from the consolidated fund.
Informing the police of the minister’s anticipated defence Ramjattan points out that the minister is, ill-advisedly, using Article 218 (3) of the constitution to justify his actions. The legislation says: “If in respect of any financial year it is found that any monies have been expended for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated for that purpose by the Appropriation Act or for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Act, a Supplementary Estimate or, as the case may be, a Statement of Excess showing the sums required or spent shall be laid before the Assembly by the Minister responsible for finance or any other designated by the President.”
Singh has made several public announcements and held a two-hour press conference to explain why he believes his use of the funds was in keeping with legislative provisions.
Ramjattan though, says this legislation only gives Singh the ability to bring proposed expenditure to the National Assembly to be approved. “In other words, the minister will request and the Assembly will grant as requested or grant as amended…” Ramjattan elaborated. He also describes the minister’s attempt to use the legislation to “hang his hat on” as opportunistic and erroneous.
Ramjattan said it is imperative that the FMA 2003 be honoured as its provisions “have the object of preventing and countering misappropriation by unauthorized, fraudulent and other means.” He added that it “provides for a number of offences which may be committed by persons who fail to act in accordance with its provisions.”
Ramjattan therefore informed the police that “criminal liability” can befall Singh or any of his subordinates if it is found that spending was not in accordance with the relevant legislation.
Ramjattan quoted a section of David McGee’s “The Budget Process – A Parliamentary Imperative (2007).”
A part of the section quoted says: “The approvals given by the legislature up to the end of the financial year or other period to which those approvals relate constitute the authorities for public funds to be committed to those purposes. The use of public funds (f)or purpose(s) not encompassed by those approvals or the expenditure of moneys in excess of the amounts approved is, subject to a government’s legal power to transfer appropriated amounts to other purposes unlawful.”
The excerpt goes on to say that “Unlawful expenditure of any kind is a matter of concern, any unlawful expenditure that is revealed will require the authorities to consider taking action to recover the expenditure. And it may involve initiating a prosecution or surcharging the individual concerned, where there is evidence of corruption or extreme lawlessness, such action will be justified…”
Ramjattan also tells the police that “the Finance Minister and the other officials must know that this Assembly is where the elected representatives of the people of Guyana reside. Further, they must know that by the political process of deliberation in this Assembly by majority vote, decisions are taken by those elected representatives on behalf of the people as to how the People’s monies are to be spent.
“We by majority said no to NCN and GINA, and because of the bungling and bundling we further said no to a number of good programmes like IAST…how on earth after we vicariously exercise the sovereignty of the People by not approving spending on these programmes, the Finance Minister dare to spend monies on these line items and programmes not approved?”
Singh is to explain to the National Assembly why he spent the money and seek its approval. The AFC and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) have signalled their intention to not support the spending. Thought Singh was to justify the spending a week after it was laid it has already been deferred on two occasions.