The $ 3.209B budget for Region Four, approved on Monday in the Committee of Supply, did not reflect the will of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), according to Regional Chairman Clement Corlette, who says its submission for spending was reduced without its knowledge.
Corlette stated that during the considerations of the budget estimates for the region, while Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud stated that the current consideration was an accurate testament to what the RDC originally had listed, this was not the case.
In a statement, he stated that the region’s budget was deficient in millions of dollars originally proposed by the RDC and he charged that the Regional Executive Officer (REO) Deolall Rooplall reworked the submission and presented it to the Finance Ministry.
He said that the submission was made with “massive mutilation,” while noting that for Drainage and Irrigation, the original sum proposed by the RDC was $180.6M, however, the Regional Executive Officer (REO) submitted a request for $125M. The region received $89M under current expenditure and $37M under capital, he further noted, while adding that those figures “revealed that the government had no intention of providing Region Four with its request and may have instructed the Clerk/Regional Executive Officer to restructure and reduce the region’s submission.”
Corlette noted that the RDC was denied access to the final submission and therefore it was unable to challenge the figures. “In real terms, the formal procedure was not observed in 2012 just like in 2011 and other years before,” he said, while adding that the RDC chairpersons are not required to sign off on the budget prior to it being sent to the Finance Ministry. As a result, he charged that the REOs “have misused the duty placed upon them to prepare and convey the final proposals from the Regional Democratic Councils to the Central Government Ministries.”
Corlette’s statement called on the National Assembly to “reign in the central government (for) capricious and malicious marginalisation” of the RDCs. The authority of the RDCs, he said, is continuously being undermined and it is the duty of the Assembly to protect the authority of the RDCs. He noted that there should be rules governing the role the RDC plays in the organising development agendas, while adding that it was not feasible for regions to execute numerous projects with such small budgets while the various ministries are allowed billions every year.
Prior to the consideration of the estimates on Monday, APNU MP Ronald Bulkan voiced concern that without input from the RDCs, the budget estimates could not depict a true reflection of areas that needed servicing and expansion and others which may need less.
Bulkan stated that while the ministry and the REOs made a definitive budget, both parties failed to address the needs of the RDCs.