On February 15 last, in an act of civility and public spiritedness too rare in Guyana of late, Minister Robert Persaud called to tell me that his ministry had in fact been gazetted. This was to be found in the December 17 Supplement of the Official Gazette, a copy of which he kindly sent me.
His action had been prompted by a comment to a newspaper in the previous week to the effect that I was not aware that his current ministry, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, had been “gazetted as a budget agency.” There was actually a specific reason for the form of words I used.
The December 17 issue of the Official Gazette does not satisfy my query. To be authorized to be allocated funds from the Consolidated Fund, the new ministry, to which Minister Persaud has been assigned, needs to be explicitly named as a Budget Agency, like his former ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture. That can be done by amending the schedule which forms part of the
Financial Management and Accountability Act of 2003. I am still not aware of such an amendment. Until such time as that schedule is amended the Minister should not be giving instructions to spend funds against or in the name of the new ministry.
I take this opportunity to also reiterate that even if the Minister’s ministry has already been gazetted, he is in no position to be instructing the GGMC to be making purchases of anything not related to mining, on behalf of that ministry. The GGMC has a Board and that Board, chaired by Major General (ret) Joseph Singh has a specific mandate, captured in the equivalent of its Articles of Association, which does not include elephants or the Botanical Gardens; neither does it include funding the Minister’s personal activities or out of pocket expenses for overseas trips.
Additionally, I believe that the powers to appoint officials, such as mining inspectors, reside with the head of the agency and not with a minister. The very public pledge that the Minister made to the Miner’s Association about his intention to make such appointments needs, therefore, to be explained.
I trust that the Board has been able to inform the Minister accordingly.
In closing permit me to also draw attention to the manner in which his powers and their scope have been cast. His mandate is restricted to the administration of the ministry’s area of responsibility. This takes on a very interesting dimension when it is understood that the responsibility for all policy in relation to the areas to which the Minister has been assigned have been reserved for the President. This is very unusual indeed and appears in effect to relegate the Minister to being a Junior Minister in the Office of the President. More importantly, it raises the question of what exactly his role is compared with that of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.
This latter point also highlights the pre-occupation of the PPP/C administration with centralizing all effective power in the hands of the President, an approach which already exposed this country to so much grief under former President Jagdeo.
Carl B Greenidge MP