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Financial power, policy guidance unavailable to new ministries until budget

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

by Zena Henry

With almost every ministry receiving a name change under the new Administration, heads of agencies are financially powerless until the budget is passed according to the Constitution. President David Granger has changed the names of several existing ministries that will now be headed by members of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition.

However, many of these new ministers will be unable to function completely as the law does not provide for financial allocations to be given to the currently non-existent entities. This issue was brought to the fore Friday May 22 when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) at a Freedom House presser accused the government of illegally allocating money to agencies that do not exist.

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo told media operatives that the government, “Cannot disburse money to ministries that don’t exist anywhere except by this new decree.” He said there is no budget right now and it is only during the budget creation that one creates a ministry which is reflected in the budget and it’s Appropriation.

 He said, “You can’t create a ministry today and take money from another ministry and send it to this non-existent in law ministry.”It was noted that the One Twelfth provision allowed the former government to spend a certain amount of money without a budget, but this pointed to agencies that were in existence.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall noted that the One Twelfth provision allowed for State spending before the election. “We were able to spend one twelfth of what Parliament approved for those existing ministries at the time.”

“Now you have monies being obviously spent in relation to agencies that were not existing and does not fall under any Appropriation Act.” He said there are a series of legislation in force that ascribes statuary responsibility to ministers and names the ministry of which that minister is part of.

“I don’t know how they will carry out their statutory responsibility which the laws of the country would have devolved on the traditional ministries.”

Finance Minister Winston Jordan agreed that monies cannot be allocated to the new ministries without a budget. He explained that spending cannot be done within the new ministries but pointed out that for those existing agencies the one twelfth provision is being used.

Jordan explained that the new ministries would become financially capable after they are gazetted, the budget prepared and passed where the agencies would appear in the Appropriated version.

Jordan noted that,”The new ministers cannot execute any functions involving expenditure.” But this does not mean that the agencies will not carry out duties. He explained that for example where the Local Government Ministry, incorporated in the Ministry of Communities had responsibility for a town, the Permanent Secretary under the old ministry can conduct the necessary operation in this regard and state business is still conducted.

The Finance Minister stated that basically, “The ministries will function without policy guidance until the budget is passed.” Jordan says he is working to have the budget passed within the constitutionally stipulated time.

He has three months after Parliament’s reopening sometime in early June.