NCN’s budget allocation on APNU’s chopping block

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:02 by GxMedia

ncnlogoThe APNU has signalled that it will once again be cutting budget allocations for the state-run National Communications Network (NCN) in a repeat of last year’s action.

This was disclosed by MP Joseph Harmon when the week-long debate on the 2013 budget estimates continued Friday.

“In this budget the minister allocates 81 million dollars to NCN, this is an entity’s allocation, Madame Speaker, (Deborah Backer) we will not support,” he declared.

Harmon, whose shadow portfolio covers communication, said information minister President Donald Ramotar must release a report into financial irregularities at NCN.

The parliamentarian noted that APNU Chairman and Leader of the Opposition David Granger had written the president twice seeking the outcome of the probe.

“Twice, and all we got back from him is that we are considering the report. We need the report, the public needs it,” Harmon stated.

When asked about the report and possible police involvement about two weeks ago the president told reporters that the matter was being “handled” but he was reluctant to divulge any details about the findings.

The NCN board last June launched a probe into reports of irregularities in payments made to the entity by GT&T for service after a special audit at the telecoms company uncovered several breaches.

NCN’s CEO Mohamed Sattaur subsequently resigned while Programme Manager Martin Goolsarran was sent on leave.

The combined parliamentary opposition during the 2012 consideration of the budget estimates voted to cut the GUY$211M in subsidies to NCN and the Government Information Agency (GINA) saying that they had failed to live up to their national obligations as public entities.

Granger last week wrote the Speaker of the National Assembly to complain about GINA’s coverage of debates.

The 2012 cuts reduced NCN’s GUY$81.2M and GINA’s GUY$130.4M subventions to $1 each. The parties had initially proposed to cut the entire heading under which the subsidies were listed, a total of GUY$918.7M, but this was amended to GUY$211.5M.

In court action subsequently pursued by government acting Chief Justice Ian Chang handed down a preliminary ruling stating that the cuts, which amounted to GUY$20.9B, were illegal. The judge stated that the opposition could only approve or disapprove the entire budget but not amend it. It is a position with which both opposition parties disagree with the APNU saying recently that it is prepared to go as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice to challenge it.

With the AFC also vehemently opposed to the operations of the state media, and NCN in particular, there appears to be little doubt as to whether it would support APNU’s intention to cut the allocation.