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The Government is spending money that the National Assembly did not approve – 7th Jan 2013

The Government is spending money that the National Assembly did not approve of and the opposition is not about to let the matter go easily. The opposition had cut over $21 billion from last year’s budget.

The opposition wants to know exactly how much money the House did not approve of, has been spent, and it also wants to know to which agencies monies were “illegally” paid over to.

Those answers are expected to come in this Thursday when the National Assembly meets.

Carl Greenidge of opposition coalition APNU has suggested a resort to the disciplinary provisions of Parliament and even to the courts for a breach of constitution.

The Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, is reported to have said in delivering his 2012 Mid-Year Report, that he had restored the sums the House deleted from the 2012 Budget.

Singh said that he was able to do so based in the fact that “the National Assembly was later deemed by the Courts of Guyana to have acted outside its constitutional remit in inflicting those cuts to the budget.”

The Opposition has argued that the Government has been misinterpreting the decision of the Chief Justice, a decision which is in itself a preliminary one.

The Chief Justice had ruled that the National Assembly can approve and disapprove of the budget, but not cut it. It is on that basis that the government said it had restored the $21 billion that was cut from the budget.

However, the Opposition insists that the Minister is misreading the ruling of the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice had denied the request of the Attorney General and denied the Minister of Finance the “liberty” to make advances/ withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund to restore the $21 billion 2012 budget cuts, except for the sum of $99M for the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC).

The Chief Justice said reason for the Funds going to the ERC is because it is a constitutional body its funding is not subject to a vote of the National Assembly.

The opposition is arguing that the only way that monies not budgeted for, can be spent is if the need for it is “urgent and unforeseen.”

Greenidge wants the Minister of Finance to say whether monies cut from the Budget and not approved by the House, have been restored to the Ministries. He has asked the Minister to answer what categories and sums have been involved, the legal basis for such payments and what advice was provided on this matter by the Attorney General.

Greenidge has also asked the Minister what section of the Chief Justice’s report/decision suggests that either the Chief Justice or the Ministry of Finance can restore cuts to the budget or that the Chief Justice can authorise the Ministry of Finance to make advances from the Consolidated Fund.

Greenidge argued that if indeed the Minister has spent monies not approved of in the budget, he would be guilty of breaching the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

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