Privileges Committee to mull complaint against Ashni Singh on Friday

The Privileges Committee is set to convene on Friday to discuss Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh’s spending of $4.5B without the approval of the National Assembly.

The government’s Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira revealed yesterday that the Speaker of the House, Raphael Trotman will convene the committee just before Parliament is slated to go into recess.

Trotman had ruled in favour of APNU MP Carl Greenidge’s motion to have Singh referred to the Privileges Committee on July 24.

In his statement last month, Trotman said that after considering all the details he found that “the issue of the spending by the Hon. Minister of Finance does raise sufficiently serious questions of privilege such that the privileges committee should enquire into. I therefore find that a prima facie case has been made out and the matter is referred to the Committee of Privileges.”

Trotman’s decision would bolster the opposition’s arguments that the expenditure was ultra vires.

In his ruling the Speaker rejected the section of the constitution which has been cited by the government to cover the expenditure.

Trotman noted Singh’s and the government’s use of Article 218 to defend the spending, and arguments by the opposition parties that his spending breached Article 217 of the Constitution. There have also been arguments that the minister’s spending breaches Sections 48 and 85 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act.

According to Trotman’s ruling “The Hon. Minister of Finance caused spending to be done that was outside of the sum approved by the Act of Parliament No. 10 of 1 2014.” Trotman noted that the 2014 budget was brought in accordance with the CJ’s ruling and that Singh adopted the recommended amendments made by the Committee of Supply for the Estimates and that the Estimates were passed as amended.

The decision constitutes the second time Singh has been referred to the Committee of Privileges in five months. In February he was referred to the committee 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.

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