OP contract workers being paid, NCN and GINA functioning despite subvention cuts

Despite the cutting of their subventions from the national budget by the opposition, contract workers at the Office of the President and employees at other affected state entities have been paid, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon revealed on Wednesday.

“Contingency funds were approved and funds were made available belatedly but still made available to meet the wages and salaries of the contract workers (at OP),” he said in response to a question by Stabroek News at his post-cabinet media briefing. “No one lost their jobs. I cannot say if employees left while waiting,” he added.

And despite cuts to the subventions for GINA and NCN, both have continued to function in the same way as they had before.

In the National Assembly last month, the Opposition again voted against an allocation of $211.5 million for the National Communica-tions Network (NCN) and the Government Information Agency (GINA). It also voted down the sum of $22.6 million for expenditure on wages and salaries for contracted employees under Office of the President Presidential Advisory and other services.

In like manner, the Opposition voted against an allocation of $11.3 million as expenditure incurred in relation to climate change consultancy and legal fees. The Opposition also rejected the arguments that the Minister of Finance gave in support of provisions of subsidies of $224.4 million for the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and State Planning Secretariat and thus voted against them. Not approved also were allocations labelled as expenditure for developmental, humanitarian and other activities in the sum of $21.6 million and a sum of $15 million as a capital grant for acquisition of equipment both of which fell under the Office of the President.

In Financial Paper 2/2012, an allocation for contracted employees under the Office of the President in the amount of $127.3 million fell by the way of the Opposition scissors, as did an allocation for the payment in relation to climate change consultancies and legal fees in the amount of $68.6 million.
The sum of $27 million under the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for the provision of meals for the conduct of Claims and Objections in 2012 was rejected by the Opposition as was an allocation for the payment of a stipend to monitoring groups, distribution of ID cards, honoraria for permanent staff and payment to temporary staff in 2012. The amount of $429 million for the Citizen Security project under the Ministry of Home Affairs was also rejected by the Opposition.

The government had taken the opposition to court and Dr. Luncheon said on Wednesday that the $1 that was approved by the opposition for the various agencies was totally inconsistent with the constitutional provision as ruled by the Chief Justice. “The Constitution says for a maximum of four months every year in the absence of a budget, the Finance Minister could withdraw from the Contingency Fund, wages and salaries whatever it takes to run the government,” he said while explaining how money was found to pay the workers.

“The provision of a $1, the Chief Justice ruled was clearly inconsistent with that provision in the law so the Finance Minister did what the law provided for and made the money available to meet those expenditures,” he said. It is unclear if these workers will be paid for the rest of the year.

In April, the opposition effected over $20B in cuts from the budget, citing a lack of transparency and accountability in the explanations for the allocations. The government later moved to restore the amounts through an action in the High Court. Although finding that the National Assembly did not have the power to cut the budget, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang in July, in an interim ruling, said the court could not restore the funds, except for allocations to the Ethnic Relations Commission  which is a constitutional agency and entitled to draw directly from the Consolidated Fund.

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