Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran has fortified his view that none of the constitutional provisions cited by the government permitted the controversial spending of $4.5B and he warned that the Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh would therefore be personally liable for this sum if the National Assembly disapproves of the expenditure.
In his accountability column appearing in today’s Stabroek News Goolsarran said: “The excess expenditure contained in Financial Paper 1/2014 is as a result of a deliberate act on the part of the Minister not catered for under Article 218 (3). It also breaches the fundamental principle of `no expenditure without appropriation’ as contained in Article 217 of the Constitution and Section 16 of the FMA Act. The Minister would therefore be personally liable under Sections 48, 49 and 85 of the FMA Act, should the Assembly disapprove of all or part of the excess expenditure contained in Financial Paper 1/2014.”
Financial Paper 1/2014 has incensed the opposition and triggered steps towards a no-confidence motion against the government which if passed would bring the government down and lead to General Elections. Unusually, the government has not yet proceeded with the consideration of the paper in Parliament, a sign that it is aware that it could have far-reaching repercussions. On the other hand, the Alliance For Change is proceeding full steam ahead with the tabling of its motion of no confidence which will then leave the onus on main opposition coalition, APNU on whether to support it.
Much of the government’s argument for the expenditure centres around the fact that in previous years the opposition had approved such expenditures and the authority of Article 218 (3) of the constitution.
Goolsarran again rejected the notion that Article 218 (3) provided any cover for the Finance Minister.
“The Minister claimed that Article 218 (3) of the Constitution allows him to authorize withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund without parliamentary approval where there has been no appropriation. This is not true, as this article only covers a situation where it is found that expenditure was incurred for which there has been no appropriation. Article 218 (3) contemplates no role by the Minister in proactively authorizing withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund. It is an after the event scenario where during the execution of the budget a discovery of excess expenditure has been made for which there was no provision. The Assembly has to sanction the expenditure first in order to trigger the Minister’s action, not before”, Goolsarran argued.
With the money already spent, the only other option available to the government would be a deal with one of the two parties in Parliament but that hardly seems likely.