The leaders of the two parliamentary opposition groups plan to hold government accountable for spending not approved in this year’s national budget and at least one of them is prepared to take the matter all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) if necessary.
In April, the opposition slashed $31 billion from the $208.8 billion 2013 budget. The $20 billion allocation for the Low Carbon Development Strategy was cut by $19 billion; $5.2 billion was cut from the $10.2 billion proposed for the Guyana Power and Light (GPL); $1.2 billion for the specialty hospital project was also snipped along with the entire air transport allocation of $5.63 billion under the Ministry of Public Works. Also coming under the knife was GINA, which had its allocation of $135.858 million reduced to $1; NCN’s $81.337 million subvention was also cut to $1.
Speaking to Stabroek News, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of APNU David Granger said the party is concerned that the government is acting as though no cuts have been made and is spending as usual on various projects and programmes.
“It is a matter of concern to APNU and we have received information from certain sources as to where the money is coming from,” he said of the financing that government is providing to keep cut programmes and agencies afloat.
“We did not mean to send people on the breadline. We meant, by cutting the budget, to ensure that NCN, for example, observed ethical journalism, that is giving opportunities to the other side,” he said. “They should remember that they are fulfilling a national duty and not a partisan duty,” said Granger.
“So it was quite a disappointment [learning that government is continuing to fund this entity] because by providing this money from unauthorised sources, it means that NCN is not being reformed, the operations are not being restructured and journalists are not being allowed to perform in what I regard is a professional way,” he said.
“We were not shocked [by these actions] because we are aware that the PPP/C administration sometimes employs devices which are not approved by the National Assembly to collect state funds and disburse state funds,” he said. “We feel that the damage that is being done to the public information system is very great and we are going to take action when we return to the National Assembly,” he further said.
Leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan called government’s actions illegal and unconstitutional. “Gover-nment has opted to continue with what they are doing as a result of the interim order by the acting Chief Justice saying that we cannot cut the budget,” he said. “We believe these actions are illegal and unconstitutional,” he added.
“This question [of whether the Parliament can reduce the budget] has not been settled finally and whether it would be done in the near future. I don’t know,” said Ramjattan. He insisted that the Treasury is the purview of the National Assembly and only the House can appropriate. “It may take the CCJ to settle the matter,” he said.
Ramjattan said that if the acting Chief Justice Ian Chang upholds his interim decision, then the matter will be taken before the Court of Appeal. He stated further that if this did not go in the opposition’s favour, then they would take the case to the CCJ. “If the CCJ rules that we cannot reduce the budget, we will have to abide by that ruling,” he said.
He, however, called the actions of the government with regard to the restoration of the cuts disturbing and vexing.
He called the speciality hospital deal corrupt and now that the House is being bypassed in the financing of the project, it is like a “double whammy” on the public purse. “The matter is one that is unconstitutional, that they will bypass their own Appropriations Act which was assented to… they are breaching their own Act,” he said.