Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh says that allocations cut from last year’s national budget were lawfully restored when the sums approved were found to be inadequate.
“Where the sums approved by the National Assembly under the Appropriation Act 2012 were found to be inadequate to meet the services of government, supplementary financing was resorted to in accordance with the law,” said Singh, in a written response to questions posed by APNU MP and Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge, in the National Assembly.
Singh, in his response, said that the categories and sums involved have already been reported to the House in successive financial papers. He said that the legal basis for such payments were the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003.
In addition, he said, the Attorney General confirmed in advance the appropriateness of the course of action adopted and it was also approved by Cabinet.
Last April, the opposition effected $20 billion 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.
Among those affected by the cuts were contract workers at the Office of the President and employees at other affected state entities, who were all later paid.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon had said that 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 had 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 had further said.
Greenidge had also asked which section of the Chief Justice’s decision suggested that either he or the Ministry of Finance could restore the allocations that were cut or that he could authorise the Ministry of Finance to make advances from the Consolidated Fund.
In response, Singh said: “The Chief Justice made several relevant references to the Constitution.”