Shadow Finance Minister for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Carl Greenidge on Thursday signalled his opposition coalition’s intention to take action against Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh for spending more than GUY$200 million on two state media entities although their 2012 budgetary allocations had been cut to GUY$1.00.
“In light of what has happened now, we will move to take action against the Minister for what we regard as an impropriety,” he said.
Attorney General, Anil Nandlall insisted that government enjoyed the constitutional right to take monies out of the Contingencies Fund if it needed to do so. “We are saying this is a statement of excesses which the Executive is empowered to lay in the National Assembly under the conditions set out in Article 218 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana,” he said.
Greenidge, however, vehemently countered that the constitution could not be read in isolation of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. “Article 218, to which reference is made, it was never intended and could not be intended for a carte blanche for the Minister of Finance to spend whatever he likes whether or not there is a shortfall,” he told the House. He reasoned that the Minister of Finance could use money from the Contingencies Fund if he was able to justify it to the House.
Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill confirmed that the money was taken out of the Contingency Fund to spend on the Government Information Agency (GINA) and the state-owned radio and television – National Communications Network (NCN).
Greenidge, himself a former Finance Minister under the Peoples National Congress (PNC) administration, argued that government could only put its hand in the so-called petty cash account only if it is urgent, unavoidable and unforeseen.
He recalled that monies that were allocated for salaries were cut because the opposition believed that state funds were going to be misused for partisan, propagandistic, party political purposed and would not have adhered to international media standards.
Greenidge reminded the House that the government had publicly stated that employees of GINA and NCN were being fired because there was no money to pay them. “How on earth can we be asked to pay the salaries of people that were fired because of budget cuts?” Greenidge queried.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon has cautioned the opposition against targeting individual ministers because government makes decisions collectively.