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– says former Minister David Patterson
Former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said on Sunday that the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) spent $747million under the Office of the President in less than two months since taking up office. Providing a comparison, he said that the APNU+AFC, under the same Office, from January to July — 7 months — spent only $536million.
Furthermore, Patterson has highlighted that while the APNU+AFC spent $6.6 billion on numerous projects over 7 months, the PPP spent half this amount, $3 billion, from August 2 to September 30, 2020. The former Minister said that these are matters of concern for this party and he believes that the PPP is actively trying to keep this data away from public comparison.
On Sunday, on a People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) programme, Patterson claimed that the PPP intentionally delayed the laying of the APNU+AFC’s 7-month Statement of Expenditure in the National Assembly to prevent public comparison. He said that this is even as the PPP is accusing the former Administration of excessive and illegal spending when the current Administration has spent more in a shorter period with nothing to show for it.
“We were supposed to have the opportunity to ask them where they spent this money but they never brought this until last minute on the last day,” Patterson said.
He noted that it was Opposition MP, Roysdale Forde who brought to the House’s attention that Budget 2020 is in breach of the Constitution because it did not include the said Statement of Expenditure.
Article 219 (3) of the Constitution permits the Minister of Finance to withdraw sums from the Consolidated Fund during a dissolution of Parliament during which period sufficient funds to meet the expenditure of the public service have not been catered for. It was through this means that former Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, obtained funds to keep the country afloat.
However, there is a requirement that when the National Assembly meets again, a statement of the expenditure, as soon as practicable, must be laid before the National Assembly by the Minister responsible for Finance for approval and inclusion in the subsequent budget.
“You are supposed to approve the monies that were spent first from January to July when that’s approved, then you add that into the big budget and then you can say accurately that’s the total. The Speaker ruled that despite the Government not [meeting] this Constitutional requirement, they can do it any time before they finish considering the budget. We objected because we said we would like the nation to see what we spent and how much we spent in truth,” Patterson explained.
It wasn’t until late last week that the PPP Government laid the Statement of Expenditure for the period January 1 to September 30, 2020, totaling $183,156,687,000 billion. The Statement laid by Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill represented $146,522,438,000 billion in Current Expenditure and $36,634,249,000 billion in Capital Expenditure.
Edghill told the media that the Statement of Expenditure is evidence of the APNU-AFC’s reckless and illegal misuse of funds carried out 15 months after the no-confidence motion of December 21, 2018.
Patterson said that the APNU+AFC has listened to the Minister of Public Works and acting Minister of Finance claim that the former Government spent over $160 billion illegally and only the balance was left behind for the 2020 Budget. Patterson said that similar claims have also been repeated over and over by PPP Members of Parliament (MPs) in their debates.
However, the former Minister objected that it is the PPP that is afraid of a comparison of their expenditure to that of the APNU+AFC’s, and this is why they delayed on the publication of the actual figures.
Providing more information, Patterson pointed out that from January to July, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure under the APNU+AFC spent $6.6 billion on numerous projects but the PPP spent $3 billion from August 2 to September 30.
“That’s half the amount of money that we spent in seven months which works out to 1.5 billion dollars per month,” Patterson stressed.
He continued to explain: “60 days they’re in power and if you’re there in 60 days you have to go to tender. If you’re doing it legally, a tender by law has to be advertised for 21 days then you have to get back in the tenders and it takes a week to evaluate it and you’ve now gone to 28 days. After that, if you revaluate, it’s another week before you can sign the contract which could carry you up to 35 days. The contractor takes a week to mobilize…so we’re up to 40 days before you can legally do this. Then, you pay him as he works. How is it possible for them to spend 1.5 billion dollars legally in the time that they’re there?”
The former Minister said that he saw no advertisement for any large project/s that the PPP can use to justify this spending of $3billion in less than two months.
Patterson also pointed out that under the Office of the President, there is a line item that caters to the Social Cohesion unit which is publicly known to have been done away with by the current Administration.
He informed the public: “They closed that entire unit down but guess what, in August and September, $33.8 million [was spent] they fired everybody but they’re still spending $10 million more. Who did they spend these monies on? How did they spend these monies? We can’t ask that because the Statement didn’t come until Friday night and the debate closed immediately after.”