The National Assembly has unanimously passed the budget allocations for the education, justice and agriculture sectors without amendments.
Consideration of the estimates began on Tuesday following the ruling of Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman that the Assembly did have the power to reduce allocations as the opposition parties had signalled they would do.
Only one allocation, that of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), had been proposed to be cut. The AFC had proposed to reduce the $1.4B allocation to $585M. The opposition parties noted the Auditor General’s recommendation that the agency should have its own accounting body instead of its funds being run through the central ministry yet the practice continued.
APNU’s Volda Lawrence then asked Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie to explain what had been done to remedy the situation. The minister in his explanation stated that they had applied to the finance ministry to have an independent account set up for the NDIA to bring it into conformity with the law.
Lawrence also questioned the minister on what was being done to address the issuing of fuel by the NDIA, another area that had come in for the Auditor General’s attention for a number of years. Dr. Ramsammy said they have instituted a system of monthly reports to the ministry and the NDIA Board to ensure greater scrutiny of the fuel consumption. He added that inspections are also carried out and there was now a centralised depot to address distribution.
Another question on the NDIA centred on what was being done to ensure that the Authority’s equipment was not being utilised for private work to which the minister said there was more active supervision of work being executed.
His answers appeared to have mollified the opposition members and after almost two and a half hours of scrutiny the allocations for his ministry were passed without amendment.
Both Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Education Minister Priya Manickchand were subjected to about an hour and a half of questioning on their portfolios. Some $28.7B was budgeted for education while the justice sector is to receive $2.1B
The sitting ended at midnight with the consideration of the estimates set to continue on Wednesday with the Ministries of Amerindian Affairs, Public Service and Health up for scrutiny.
Both the AFC and the APNU have submitted notices of their intention to disapprove the entire $1.250B allocation for the speciality hospital. In order to have the option of reducing an allocation the proposed amendment must be submitted to the House at least 24 hours in advance.