A mere 8% of the $248 million allocated for the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) subventions has so far been spent in 2017.
Information provided to Stabroek News by the Ministry of Communities shows that 61 of the 62 NDCs have received approval for their proposed work programmes and have therefore seen their $4 million subvention approved. The Woodlands/ Farm NDC in Region 5 is still to see its work programme approved.
Despite this 98% approval rate for work programmes, only $120 million or 48% has actually been released by the ministry and $20,576,472 or just over 8% has been spent.
The data shows 33 of the 194 proposed projects have been awarded a value of $25,993,855. While it is not clear which NDCs have been able to access funds, the data shows that the largest percentage of expenditure was recorded in Region 10. The lone NDC in that region, Kwakwani, has completed one project, valued at $1 million. Meanwhile, two other projects, collectively valued at another $1 million, are still to be awarded.
The region that has seen the lowest percentage of funds released and expended is Region 5. The 10 NDCs in that region can collectively access $40 million dollars but only $16 million or 40% has been released and of that sum only $2,974,000 has been awarded for projects and a mere $429,520 has been spent.
The sums were provided under the Fiscal Transfers Act, which sets out criteria through which resources are to be allocated to local authorities.
A sum of $401 million was approved in the national budget for 2016 for subventions to municipalities and NDCs. During the budget debate, Minister Ronald Bulkan had told the House that $153 million would be for the nine municipalities while the remaining $248 million would support the 62 NDCs.
He later explained to Stabroek News that of the lump sum, $24 million has been budgeted for Georgetown, $16 million for the municipalities of New Amsterdam and Linden, $15 million for the other six municipalities and $4 million for each NDC.
In June last year, Bulkan also explained that the ministry is prepared to provide each NDC with the subvention provided that it is able to submit an appropriate work programme.
The Fiscal Transfers Act is designed to prevent “arbitrary or capricious allocations;” rather it allows for the use of objective criteria in the funding of Local Government Authorities (LGAs).
According to Clause 6 (1) of the Act, “The annual subvention or fiscal transfers, from central government to local authorities shall be based primarily on a set of conditions and stipulated performance indicators so as to form an aggregate sum referred to in the Schedule.”
The Act defines “sets of conditions” as “the criteria used to determine the sum of money appropriated by Parliament annually to local authorities and of which fifty percent is allocated equally among those local authorities with the remaining fifty percent being allocated to the local authorities in accordance to variables, such as population size, geographical area or stipulated performance indicators which may be changed by the Minister by regulations.”
It defines “stipulated performance indicators” as “the rate of collection of taxes by each local authority.”
Though the act does not stipulate a “work programme” as a requirement for the receipt of allocations, the ministry has set this criteria as a means of encouraging “some sort of financial responsibility,” Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry Emile McGarrell had told Stabroek News last year.
He had further clarified that the poor collection rate of many NDCs has curtailed a strict adherence to the provision and ass such the LGAs were being provided with much less than they required. It is not clear if this situation still obtains as Stabroek News was unable to reach the PS for comment.