Gov’t blunders on Budget Estimates … violates laws assented to by President Granger

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Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

CONSIDERATIONS of 2015 budgeted estimates in the National Assembly were stalled for five hours yesterday when it was uncovered that budgetary estimates presented by Finance Minister Winston Jordan a few weeks ago were done against two laws, which were passed under the David Granger Administration. Those laws are the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2015, and the Fiscal Management and Authority (FMA) (Amendment) Act 2015, which were the first legislation passed in the 11th Parliament under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government.

Speaker Barton Scotland
Speaker Barton Scotland

Member of Parliament) for the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Anil Nandlall, told reports during a press conference at the Public Buildings, Brickdam, yesterday, that his party had raised concerns to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, regarding the illegality of the estimates.
“The estimates as currently structured and presented are in violation of the Constitution (Amendment) Act of 2015, and the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) (Amendment) Act of 2015,” Nandlall, a former Attorney General, told the press corps at a midday press conference yesterday.
Explaining the five-hour delay for yesterday’s sitting which started at 2:00pm, as opposed to 9:00am, Nandlall said this was due to a meeting the Speaker had summoned with members of both sides of the House.
“We had a long discussion, and in the end, it was accepted that estimates, as they are presently constructed, are indeed in violation of the two pieces of legislation which they passed,” Nandlall continued.
“They (Government) have undertaken to correct those estimates and will soon present a motion to the Assembly reflecting those corrections, and that the motion is intended to bring the estimates in conformity with the new prescription,” the PPP MP said.

PPP/C MP Anil Nandlall
PPP/C MP Anil Nandlall

Another Opposition MP, Gail Teixeira, said another shift that has to be included in the motion is where Rights Commissions were improperly placed under various Ministries based on the 2003 amendment to the Third Schedule.
An arrangement was made that considerations for constitutional bodies will be deferred during this period for estimates until the motion is brought.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, said during the beginning of the session at 2:00pm yesterday that the considerations for constitutional agencies, which were to be considered yesterday, would be taken at another sitting.
Those agencies include the Parliament Office; the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions; Judicial, Police, Teaching and Public Service Commissions; Public Service Appellate Tribunal; Office of the Ombudsman; and the Guyana Elections Commission.
A second press conference was held yesterday with members of the Government where Vice-President and Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge said, “The PPP has certainly discovered that they need to stay very close to the Constitution and the laws of Guyana.”
Greenidge confirmed to the media that issues have been raised about the estimates conflicting with laws on the books.
The budget estimates presented on August 10 were placed before the National Assembly a month or so after the laws that were approved by the National Assembly and assented to by President David Granger.

Ms Gail Teixeira, Presidential Advisor on Governance
Ms Gail Teixeira, Presidential Advisor on Governance

Asked whether the challenges will result in an extension of the three days stipulated by Government for consideration of the estimates, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo interjected that an agreement was made for the estimates to be made for 10 and a half hours for three days.
“I don’t see us going beyond the Sub-Committee’s recommendation at this point in time, but taking into consideration there has been some delays in the morning session, I’m not sure how we’ll be able to tweak them to allow for the considerations to take place as we had agreed on in the sub-committee from 9:30am 11:00pm,” the Prime Minister continued.
The laws in question, which have been violated by the presentation of the budgetary estimates, are those which grant independence from the Executive to constitutional agencies.
Those agencies, based on the amendments, would have been allowed to draw monies directly from the consolidated fund. However, the 2015 budgetary estimates have listed some of those agencies under Ministries of Government.
The Opposition PPP is concerned that the conflict between the legislation and the budget was allowed to pass through the Government’s filter system which includes a number of lawyers, economists, and even former Speaker of the National Assembly in the 10th Parliament, Raphael Trotman.

By Derwayne Wills