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ANUG calls for audit of countrywide “haphazard” cash disbursements; recommends ‘oil money’ welfare

Last Updated on Tuesday, 7 September 2021, 22:12 by Denis Chabrol

A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party on Tuesday slammed the Irfaan Ali-led administration for doling out billions of dollars in actual cash seemingly without any accountability.

“Money should not be taken from the State coffers in the haphazard way that we have seen,” ANUG said in a statement.

That party, which is part of a joinder seat with two other parties, also called for an audit of the various cash transfers so far and recommended that the oil revenues be distributed to the poor, elderly and unemployed.

“The public has not heard of any account for that expenditure to ensure the monies were properly distributed with no corruption or inefficiency. A New and United Guyana calls on the Auditor General to  investigate and to inform the public of his findings on the system of cash distribution, and the checks and balances, and of any discrepancies which he found,” said ANUG.

Neither the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) nor The New Movement (TNM) has been issued any statement about national issues since the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

ANUG recommended that the Guyana government enacts legislation to spell out clearly the rules governing direct cash transfers. “A New and United Guyana calls on the Government to design, legislate and implement a permanent systemic and transparent rules based structure of entitlement for welfare and cash relief which creates a structure everyone can understand,” that party said.

ANUG questioned where the “unprecedented cash” expenditure was budgeted, and when it was laid before Parliament, or if it was paid as an emergency from a supplementary fund. The party said it is also unclear whether the expenditure has been audited by the Auditor General or anyone at all to ensure that the “mind- boggling exercise of taking billions of dollars from unknown accounts, converting it to $5,000 and $1,000 bills cash, putting that cash into hundreds of thousands of envelopes to be entrusted to hundreds of Ministry employees to deliver to several hundred thousand individuals.”

“In the most organized and efficient system, this was a recipe for disaster,” ANUG said.

In terms of the oil revenue,  ANUG said the poor, elderly and unemployed should benefit from direct cash transfers through established governmental institutions such as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) “with real accountability and less scope for corruption, favouritism and politicizing.”  “The beneficiaries should be able to go to the post office or to the National Insurance Offices and show their documents and receive their payments. Businesses and farmers who claim benefits should have those benefit offset against their income tax declarations in future years,” ANUG added.  That party said parents should be encouraged to send their children to school by financial incentives. and the elderly and the unemployed should be assured of an income through a systematic welfare structure.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh had said that Budget 2020 provided for $7 billion of COVID-19 relief cash grants  of GY$25,000 per household to ease the financial impact of the virus. More recently, the House approved GY$10 billion for support to the agriculture sector in the wake of devastating floods that had started in June. Specifically, ANUG highlighted that “the rice sector, always PPP friendly, received specific largesse, being allocated a total of $3.2 billion while livestock farmers were to receive a more modest financial assistance of $600 million.”

ANUG noted that government announced the “Because We Care” Cash Grant and the School Uniform and Supplies Grant to be distributed for children in the public school system, representing $19,000 to each child in the public education system.

The government had promised an audit of the COVID-19 cash disbursements.