GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana’s National Assembly on Thursday considered two financial papers totalling more than $1.5 billion (US$7.5 million) and $12.1 billion (US$61 million) respectively, which presented the House with another opportunity to restore the funds that were cut from the 2012 national estimates.
However, the Alliance for Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) again voted against provisions for agencies that fall under the Office of the President such as the Government Information Agency (GINA) and the National Communications Network (NCN), both of which were allocated one dollar from the 2012 budget.
AFC MP, Khemraj Ramjattan questioned whether government was going to make available the Harry Parmessar report that came out of the inquiry into alleged financial irregularities at NCN. This report has been submitted to the Auditor General.
Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh responded that, while he is in no position to commit to making the report available, however whatever the Auditor General concludes with regards to the report will no doubt be made publicly available, whether through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or otherwise.
After several questions the Opposition agreed to restore the $1 billion subsidy that they had cut earlier this year, from the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc.
Expenditures for the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) and the State Planning Secretariat, which comes under the Finance Ministry, were once more voted against.
APNU MP, Carl Greenidge questioned why the expenditure for CANU was returned to the House under the Finance Ministry instead of the Home Affairs Ministry as was recommended by the Auditor General.
Singh explained that the Ministry is in the process of implementing the recommendation. He said that at the time when the national estimates were considered, a proportion of the allocation for CANU was placed under the Home Affairs and was approved by the House.
However, the remaining part of CANU’s budget that was placed under the Finance Ministry was not approved. He further explained that given the fact that in recent years the full amounts have been budgeted under the Finance Ministry, the interim releases that were granted prior to the passage of the 2012 budget had to also be granted under the same Ministry until such time that an appropriation was approved for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“It was that reason that an allocation equivalent to roughly a quarter of the requirements was provided under the Ministry of Finance and the remainder was provided under the Home Affairs Ministry with the expectation that upon the passage of the budget, that transition would have been effected, laying the stage for the transition to be fully effected from the 2013 budget,” Singh explained.
When it was time to vote for these expenditures, a division was called which resulted in 27 members for, as opposed to 32 members against; again denying these agencies the necessary funds.
Moving on the financial paper two, approval of expenditures under the Office of the President and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was again voted out. This included $127.4 million for the payment of wages and salaries to contracted employees, $68.6 million for the payment for climate change consultancies and legal fees, and $27 million and $500 million respectively to cover cost incurred during the claims and objections period and the payment of stipend and honoraria to GECOM staff.
On the other hand, approval was granted for the $635 million that was sought to meet additional cost associated with the increase in old age pension from $8,100 to $10,000 per month as well as $170 million to advance government’s information communication technology programme and $5.3 billion for the acquisition of a 26 megawatt power plant, which will be placed at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara to mitigate generation shortfall.
Late Thursday evening, the finance minister was being grilled by opposition Members of Parliament on the $1.9 billion allocation for a host of Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) initiatives, following which the money was approved.
They also agreed to $116.9 million as additional inflows for the Agriculture Ministry’s Conservancy Adaptation Project.