Opposition members and Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes clashed on Tuesday afternoon over expenditure for a forestry inventory study.
During the consideration of the estimates for the 2019 national budget, the Committee of Supply scrutinised the capital expenditure for the ministry’s Development and Administration and opposition member Pauline Sukhai questioned the status of the progress of the Forestry Inventory Study that was allocated $50 million in 2018.
Responding to the question, Broomes said that the project is 100% completed for the year and 30% completed overall.
Under capital expenditure, the ministry budgeted $35 million for 2019, which Broomes pointed out is to procure an ATV, GIS software, a desktop computer and a motor vehicle.
Broomes’ answer prompted opposition member Anil Nandlall to take the floor and he pointed out that the legend for the allocation indicates that it is for provision for the forest inventory study.
“I heard the Honourable Minister explain to us that they are buying an ATV under this provision… Might I ask for a breakdown of how much of this money is actually going to do forest inventory study and how much is going to be spent on matters acquiring assets?” Nandlall questioned.
To this, Broomes related that when they proceed to the second programme – Natural Resources Management – more information would be provided on the project.
“This money will be spent to buy these vehicles to support the same study. These equipment are for the same study because to execute this study they have to go into the fields they have to get the GIS and all of this… It is not a study that will be done in Georgetown and it is something that has field activities so we have to complement them,” she explained.
When the committee alighted on the second programme, Nandlall pointed out that there is a budgetary allocation under the headline “Other” that increased from $81 million in 2018 to $251 million in 2019.
In explaining the allocation, Broomes noted that from the amount allocated, $244 million is for the forest inventory study, $2 million for mining regulation, $1.1 million for consultancy and $2 million for advertisements.
Broomes further explained that the money will be used to implement the second stage of the study.
“The explanation is that I did mention through the GFC [Guyana Forestry Commission] we will be looking at zoning of the forest; meaning the GFC will be looking at all types of species, where they are, even with the wildlife… It is an expensive project but very robust,” she explained.
Broomes noted that the Ministry of Natural Resources along with the GFC will be managing the programme, which “received the blessings of Cabinet and the tender board.” She added that the current cost is estimated at US$4 million at this stage and more information will be provided as the process continues.
Broomes’ response prompted opposition member Juan Edghill to question whether any funds from the extra budgetary agency are being engaged to finance the study. He explained that since the study is being undertaken through the GFC, then the money should’ve been allocated through another line item that caters for subsidies to local organisations.
However, Broomes did not give a clear answer and emphasised that all the information on the project would be relayed to the house and stressed that it was given approval by cabinet and went through the tendering process.
Broomes was also questioned on provisions made to the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GY-EITI) to assist in finishing its reconciliation report, which is being done by the UK Company Moore Stephens LLP. She noted that it is being done at a cost of $29 million over an 18-month duration.
Questions were also posed about the increase in allocation for security from $13 million to $19 million and Broomes related that they will now have to pay an additional $7 million for security services for a building at Lot 55 Main Street, which is being rented at a cost of $20 million annually to house the secretariat of the GY-EITI.
After scrutiny, the allocations of $873.2 million for current expenditure and $572.9 million for capital expenditure in 2019 for the ministry were approved.