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Scrutiny of national estimates delayed… opposition says Govt’ Budget flouts law

Consideration and scrutiny of the financial estimates of the government is belayed and the opposition says it’s because “the current structure of the Budget estimates violates” two recently passed pieces of legislation- the Constitutional (Amendment) Act and the Fiscal and Accountability (Amendment) Act.

Those laws passed by the government just over a month ago, were set to give more autonomy to those constitutionally mandated agencies. However, according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, the current budget has failed to reflect the new power given to those agencies.

During a special press briefing at Parliament’s Committee room Monday August 24, he said that matter was intended to be raised on the House floor, and as the regulations of Parliament would have it in Standing Order 12; a letter on this issue was sent to the Speaker of the House. Nandlall said that the Speaker then invited a meeting with both sides of House and it was “accepted” by the government that the estimates are in violation of the two pieces of law and “undertook to correct” the matter.

He said too, that a decision was made for a motion to be presented reflecting the correct estimates to confirm with the new legal prescription.

The opposition said that when the discussions do take off it is expected that only agencies might be discussed and the constitutional bodies will be done when the corrections are made. “Those bodies will be deferred,” opposition Chief Whip Gail Texieira told the media.

She said estimates for the 10 regions will be discussed first, but already she sees problems with this, given the cut- short days to scrutinize the estimates. The opposition and the government bumped heads earlier last week when a motion was passed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo to have the scrutiny of the estimates done in three days.

The opposition said when they were in office discussion of the estimates lasted five to seven days. They said the government is trying to “muzzle” them. With this new issue, they are saying now that the extension beyond the three days is even more necessary.

According to the opposition, they have seen a draft motion that is supposed to be presented on the House floor and is awaiting that. That, they say is causing the current delay in the start of the House’s business which at the time of this article was over three hours behind.