Gov’t seeking $116m in supplementary funds for SARA

Government is seeking $116 million for the establishment and operation of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA). This request is part of an application for $2.5 billion in supplementary funds being sought by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan.

On Thursday, the Minister laid a Schedule of Supplementary Provisions on the Current and Capital Estimates totalling $2,514,679,330 for the period January to December 2017. This is the second such application with the House having approved $6.395 billion in supplementary spending three weeks ago.

This most recent application which will be debated today includes $89, 897,285 to provide for the establishment of SARA. This establishment includes salaries and wages for five managerial staff, 13 technical staff, 12 supervisory and clerical staff and 16 services and related staff.

Thirteen million dollars  is also being sought under Capital estimates for the provision of two vehicles for SARA while $13,424,000 is being sought for the provision of furnishing and equipping of a newly rented building to house the agency. This final request also includes provision for furniture, television, fridge, photocopier, projector, server, and water dispenser.

In June, Stabroek News reported that weeks after the long-awaited State Assets Recovery Bill was passed, the newly-established agency was operating without a budget. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Major (rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer had however noted that the entity’s financial plan would be submitted within another few weeks which would pave the way for key administrative matters to be addressed.

He further explained that among the top priorities are the completion of the budget, the hiring of required staff including lawyers and the rental of a building which will see the agency being removed from the Ministry of the Presidency compound.

The Bill was passed by the government following an opposition walkout on April 13.

The entire parliamentary session had been set aside for a debate on the bill but was cut short because of time constraints. The parliamentary opposition PPP/C had signalled that a court challenge to the Bill was imminent. The Bill was assented to by President David Granger shortly after passage.

The Bill gives effect to the non-conviction-based asset recovery recommendations contained in the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption 2003, which was ratified by the Government of Guyana in April 2008. “The Bill therefore introduces legislation to combat unlawful conduct and corrupt practices in relation to property and other assets owned by the State, or in which the State has an interest,” it reads.

The Bill is divided into seven parts dealing with the establishment of SARA, the setting up of the Recovery of State Assets Fund, civil recovery and preservation of state property obtained through unlawful conduct and orders to assist investigation and international cooperation among others.

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