$3B supplementary budget passed

The National Assembly on Friday approved $3 billion in extra budgetary allocations, including almost $1 billion in additional financing for the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI).

The approved allocations, detailed in Financial Paper No.3 of 2017, comprised $519.9 million in current estimates and $2.45 billion in capital estimates.

Among the allocations approved was a total of $986,962,271 for the MPI. It is the third time this year that MPI has received additional funds. The Ministry had received $6 billion in supplemental financing in July and $520 million in August.

The Financial Paper identifies the additional expenses as spending for dredging, highways and the reconditioning of ferry vessels.

Under dredging, $286,500,000 will be used to purchase additional spares for the Maritime Administration Depart-ment’s fleet of vessels. Previously, $295,000,000 was allocated for this line item in the 2017 budget.

This allocation was questioned by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic members, who wondered why a supplementary request so close in sum to the original allocation was being sought.

In response, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson explained that the line item will not be included in the 2018 budget as the allocation will allow the ministry to be ready for all necessary works in the new year.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira further questioned whether the six weeks remaining in the year would be enough for a proper tendering process to be completed.

Patterson claimed that the time would be sufficient, while explaining that the ministry would be seeking permission to utilise restricted tendering.

“Why restricted tendering? …That’s selective tendering. Is this being brought to the House so close to the end of the year to circumvent a proper procurement process?” Teixeira asked.

In answer, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan told the House that the parts being sourced are specialised and would require time to source so that an approval for the necessary sums will allow the ministry to begin the process early and hit the ground running in 2018.

MPI has also received an additional $130,000,000 to cater for cost escalation on the East Coast Demerara Highway project.  This is the second supplementary allowance for this project; additional financing of $2,425,424,028 has al-ready been approved for this line item originally budgeted at $1.4 billion.

The ministry also received approval for $193,212,171 in additional inflows for the West Demerara Highway project and counterpart resources under Caribbean Develop-ment Bank loan operation 7/SFR-OR-GUY. This allocation, according to the Financial Paper, is to facilitate payments under the Fourth Road project, which was originally allocated $2,335,000,000 and re-ceived supplemental financing of $101,000,000.

Finally, the ministry also received approval for $377,250,100 to facilitate rehabilitation works on the M.V. Kimbia ($177 million) and to purchase additional spare parts for the fleet of ferries ($200 million), including for the purchase of air filters, injectors, auxiliary pumps, and other critical spares. Previous supplementary provisions catered for additional cost for the rehabilitation of the MV Sandaka ($100 million) and final payment for the rehabilitation of MV Lady Northcote ($75 million). The original allocation in the 2017 budget was $240,000,000.

In 2016, MPI also received supplementary financing in the amount of $7.069 billion. While the Ministry of Finance credited this financing with assisting in the strong performance of domestically financed projects, the Auditor General in his 2016 Report took note of the financing sought in a less favourable light.

According to the report, “it should be noted that despite the Ministry of Public Infrastructure receiving Supplementary Allotments of $7.069 billion there were unspent balances of $7.798 billion. Included in this shortfall were amounts totalling US$7.228 million equivalent to $1.493 billion which relates to Foreign Funded Projects.”

It later explained that the supplementary allotments totalling $7.069 billion were received mainly for: purchase of equipment; reconditioning of ferry vessels; the CJIA Modernisation Project; Urban Roads/Drainage; Hinterland/Coastal Airstrips; and highway improvement on the East Bank Demerara.

Other allocations ap-proved include $171 million for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) for its involvement in several security operations and $100 million for consultancies on border matters for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The allocations for the GDF stemmed from activities it undertook following the July 9th Camp Street prison break. The funds are to cover additional office equipment, vehicle spares, maintenance cost, transportation and for the maintaining of equipment such as stoves and generators. They are to also cover rental of tents, chairs and the purchase of other necessities.

Following stepped up activity on the border controversy with Venezuela, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs got approval for an extra $100 million for consultancy services. The earlier voted provision was $200 million.

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