The Committee of Supply on Friday evening approved the proposed budgetary allocations for regions 2, 3, 4 and 5, amounting to $11.2B in total.
Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker and his team were grilled extensively by opposition Members of Parliament, who sought answers and clarity on a number of the allocations, including those for security services and infrastructural works.
In examining the estimates for Region 2, APNU MP Christopher Jones questioned Whittaker on a $6M increase in security services, under ‘Regional Administration and Finance.’
The Minister explained that a new contract was recently awarded to Home Safe Security Services and that there is an increase in the rate, which is now $346 per hour. He also announced that the previous rate was $145 per hour.
AFC MP Trevor Williams enquired why the Ministry has procured the services of Home Safe—a firm that is charging significantly more than the previous security service. Whittaker however, said that Home Safe would have gone through the same process as the other security service and that consideration of increased employment cost would have been a factor in the determination of the price.
With Region Three being allocated $3.2B, and $1.7B going to the education sector, Whittaker was also questioned by APNU MP John Adams about whether all of the secondary schools in the region had 24-hour security. “All of the secondary schools have 24 hours security,” he said.
Adams also queried if the monies listed for ‘National and other events’ was adequate and if it caters for uniforms for the athletes and stipends for the supervisors since it was slightly higher than the monies allocated last year.
Whittaker informed that the $6.7M made available is what can be afforded and he said it will ensure participation of all the students.
APNU MPs, during his explanation shouted, “Don’t come back for more you know.”
Regarding health services for the region, Adams questioned the Minister on the $11M allocation for an ambulance, and whether it is an “ambulance or a bus coming to be made into an ambulance.” The Minister stated that it was a “fully equipped ambulance.”
Meanwhile, Region four was allotted $ 3.4B and Region Five $1.9B. Under Region 4, APNU MP Ronald Bulkan queried why such a “paltry” sum has been allocated for the construction and maintenance of bridges and roads.
Whittaker, however, informed that as far as he was aware, there were roads done by the ministries of Public Works and Housing. “I am aware that there are roads done by the Local Authority and there are roads done by the Regional Democratic Council. “
Chairman of the Com-mittee Raphael Trotman also asked the Minister how mapping is done and how he decides which roads his Ministry will undertake, since there are instances of overlapping and many “grey areas.” “If all these agencies are working on roads yet many roads are still left out, how is the work coordinated between these agencies?” he questioned.
Whittaker boasted that the probability of overlapping was “minus one and the actual overlapping was zero.
There is collaboration at the level of the Ministry of Finance so there won’t be any overlapping,” he said.
Consideration of allocations for the remaining five regions—6,7,8,9, and 10—will continue today.