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Local Government Commission 2019 budgetary shortfall delaying its salaries, other payments; Finance Ministry to decide

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emil McGarrel (left)

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emil McGarrel Friday night ruled counter-signing cheques for the Local Government Commission (LGC) to pay salaries, utility and other bills until the Finance Ministry says how it intends to finance a shortfall.

“What they have submitted is something (a work programme) that is showing a shortfall that is outside of the budget. I have forwarded that to Finance and I have asked the Ministry of Finance’s guidance on what to do,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

McGarrel explained that the LGC presented its GYD$305 million budget for 2019 directly to the Ministry of Finance, although it is not yet an independent budgeted agency.

The Permanent Secretary added that when the 2019 budget was passed, GYD$124 million was allocated as a line-item under the Ministry of Communities budget and as such he could not authorise payments for the LGC unless the Finance Ministry advises how the Commission would meet the budgetary shortfall. The LGC said the GYD$124 million was sufficient only to finance the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Georgetown City Council.

McGarrel  said he did not calculate how much is needed to finance the revised work programme for this year, but it would be October, November and December 2019. “The Ministry of Communities can only sign off on a complete programme that reflects compliance with the allocation for 2019 and the allocation for 2019 is indeed 124 million but if you submit to me a cash flow showing a shortfall then you are showing to me that the 124 million is not what (is) sufficient to carry you to the rest of the year,” he said.

He conceded remarking that the salaries of the 27 LGC staff were not in keeping with those in the traditional public salary range, but was quick to point out that the real reason is that he could not approve any payments if there are insufficient funds for the work programme or he would be violating the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). “If I sign off, countersign on this then I am knowingly committing an offence, knowingly disregarding the regulations that I cannot commit government if I am not assured that there are sufficient balances to carry out the work programme to the end of the year,” the Permanent Secretary said.

The LGC earlier Friday summoned the media and complained bitterly that the Permanent Secretary has not been signing cheques because the salaries were different from those in the public service. The Commission said it was unaware why payments for other services and products including drinking water and snacks for the staff were being held up by the Ministry of Communities.

McGarrel said unfortunately, the LGC was still listed as a budgeted agency under the Ministry of Communities and all he was doing was accounting for government funds.

The Permanent Secretary said the Communities Ministry has no desire to determine the LGC’s operations.