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PPP fails to restore budget cut to constitutional agency

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

The opposition People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) efforts to have the National Assembly approve the Parliament Office’s request for GYD$1,845, 416 instead of the Finance Minister’s cut to GY$1,700,271 was defeated.

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo failed to persuade House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland to reject the motion for approval of the GY$1.8 billion sponsored by PPP Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira. Nagamootoo contended that it would be unconstitutional for the opposition to determine financing, drawing on the consolidated fund without the minister’s recommendation and Cabinet approval.

“It is an invitation to lawlessness and unconstitutionality. Only the government, the cabinet can authorise sums of money to be voted on in the National Assembly,”  Nagamootoo said. “It cannot be a fiat from the opposition to run the government from the opposition benches,” he also said.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said his decision to cut the budgeted amount was based on Guyana’s economic outlook for revenues, growth in the economy and annualisation of salaries.

After interventions by Teixeira and Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge on whether the motion was in violation of the constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, the House Speaker put the two amounts to the vote. With its one-seat majority in the 65-seat National Assembly, the House voted in favour of the amount that was proposed by the Finance Minister.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira

Teixeira countered by referring to a ruling by then High Court Judge, Ian Chang that the budget agencies of constitutional agencies such as the Ethnic Relations Commission could not be cut because that Commission is a body that is independent of government. “There is a ruling of the court on the matter. Therefore, we are putting in all honesty a constitutional request for money,” she said.

The PPP did not make similar efforts during the consideration of estimates for the 15 other constitutional agencies.

Consideration of proposed expenditures for the Parliament Office came after a two-hour meeting of the Parliamentary Business Sub-Committee and further discussion in the House over parliamentarians non-receipt of details of the proposed expenditures since the matter was first discussed two weeks ago.

Concerns had also been raised about the reduction in time for consideration of the estimates from five hours to two hours and 40 minutes.

Eventually, the documents were sent by email as a reluctant compromise by the PPP.