Gov’t still abusing Contingencies Fund – Goolsarran

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran says government is still misusing supplementary financial papers and abusing the Contingencies Fund and pointed to a number of instances in the latest requests made to the House where this trend continues.

He accused government of tapping the Contingencies Fund to meet routine expenditure which does not qualify for such use. The three financial papers tabled last Thursday total $12.384 billion consisting of current and capital expenditure. They will be considered by the Committee of Supply at the next sitting of the National Assembly.

Financial paper 1 of 2013 consists of current and capital estimates totalling $3.384 billion for the period ended December 31, 2013. Financial paper 2 of 2013 consists of current and capital expenditure totalling $1.261 billion for the period August 13, 2013 to December 31, 2013.

Financial paper 3 of 2013 consists of current and capital estimates totalling $7.737 billion and covers the period ended December 31, 2013.

Goolsarran, now President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) explained that there are three categories of supplementary estimates. He said that the first type is when government incurs an expense over and above that which was approved in Parliament. This he referred to as a statement of excess. Secondly, there is the scenario where no money has been spent, but government anticipates spending more than was budgeted. The third category is where monies were spent from the Contingencies Fund and government seeks to replenish that fund by bringing a financial paper to the Parliament. He explained that in the last scenario, the Minister of Finance is authorised to withdraw the monies from the Contingencies Fund provided that the expenditure is urgent, or cannot be postponed without jeopardising the public interest.

“When the Minister draws from the Contingencies Fund, at the very next sitting he is supposed to replenish it,” said Goolsarran. He explained that while the Minister has control of the Contingencies Fund, the National Assembly controls any withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund.

Regarding the first category of financial paper, Goolsarran said that the Minister could spend for the first four months up to the time of the budget, with the expectation that those sums would be approved at budget time. He said if those sums are not approved then they will go down as excess.

Further, in examining paper 2, Goolsarran said that the Minister of Finance ought not to have approved new capital expenditure before the budget is passed. He pointed to a number of items listed under Capital Expenditure in paper 2, noting that Government should have waited on the budget. “Only ongoing capital projects should be financed before the budget not new ones,” he said. Financial Paper 2 lists allocations of $351.9 million for additional costs incurred under the solid waste disposal programme; $31.4 million as expenditure incurred for the High Dependency Unit of the Georgetown Hospital; $53.4 million for the completion of the Citizen Security Programme and other sums for the provision of machine-readable passports and for the acquisition of boats for anti-piracy operation. All of these items failed to qualify as unforeseen or urgent, according to Goolsarran.

Financial paper two also has contained in it a number of current expenditures including $48 million for the Commission of Inquiry into the Walter Rodney assassination; $5.5 million for the provision of security and rental of building for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and other expenses relating to training of the SWAT unit, polygraph testing and acquisition of fire-fighting vehicles. Again, Goolsarran failed to see how these expenditures qualified as urgent and unforeseen.

“This is an abuse of the Contingencies Fund to meet routine expenditure,” he said.

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