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Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s justification for the late submission of the Statement of Expenditure to the National Assembly lacks merit, according to Opposition Member of Parliament, Roysdale Forde, SC. Forde, on Tuesday told Village Voice GY, that there can be no justification for the Government’s breach of the Constitution and the Laws of the country.
Ahead of the commencement of the Consideration of the Budget Estimates and Expenditure last week Monday, Forde, a Senior Counsel, had warned the National Assembly that Article 219 (3) of the Constitution would be breached should the Appropriation Bill be considered before the Statement of Expenditure was approved but the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, through its Members of Parliament, said there was nothing unconstitutional.
During a press conference last Friday, Forde said Article 219 (3) of the Constitution sets out clear requirements for the tabling of Statements of Expenditure.
“Article 219 (3) of the Constitution requires that where at any time Parliament has been dissolved before any provision or any sufficient provision has been made for the carrying on of the Government of Guyana, the Minister responsible for Finance may authorise the withdrawal of such sums from the Consolidated Fund which may be necessary for the purpose of meeting expenditure on the public services until the expiry of a period of three months commencing with the date on which the National Assembly first meets after that dissolution, but a statement of the expenditure so authorized shall as soon as practicable be laid before the Assembly by the Minister responsible for Finance or any other Minister designated by the President and, when the statement has been approved by the Assembly, that expenditure shall be included, under the appropriate heads in the next Appropriation Bill,” the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament explained.
He said the Government in tabling the Estimates and Expenditure for the Year 2020, included monies already spent but as if they were to be spent. It was after Forde had pointed out the Constitution would be breached, that the PPP/C belatedly produced a Statement of Expenditure on Thursday, September 24, 2020. However, that move came long after the Budget Debates were concluded and when most of the Budget Agencies were approved in the Committee of Supply.
“This Statement of Expenditure as submitted is useless, as the consideration of Estimates are over. It is also useless because for the first time, we can now know that is was not $160 Billion Dollars spent by the APNU+AFC, but now $140 Billion,” the Opposition Parliamentarian said.
But Forde’s admonition did not sit well with the Attorney General, who launched a verbal attack in an attempt to discredit his ability to speak on issues relating to the Constitution and Laws of Guyana. Nandlall, in a televised statement that very Friday, contented that Forde’s interpretation of Article 219 (3) was flawed.
“The intention of the provision, is to account for every dollar spent outside or prior to the Appropriation Act. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Minister of Finance at the very last moment before the Appropriation Act is tabled, to table that statement of expenditure, so it captures every dollar,” the Attorney General reasons. He had submitted that to present the Statement of Expenditure earlier would result in gaps in the financial records.
But Forde said the explanation by the Attorney General that the Statement of Expenditure has to be submitted at the time of the consideration of the Appropriation Bill is absurd, as the Statement of Expenditure contemplates and purports to cover the period ending September 30th, 2020.
“The delayed tabling of the Statement of Expenditure achieved its improper purpose, that is to say, to hinder and obstruct the proper and full examination of the proposed spending by the PPP for the few remaining months of 2020,” the APNU+AFC Parliamentarian said.
Breach of Accountability Act
The Government, through the Attorney General, has also indirectly admitted that it breached Section 80 B (2) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.
During the first sitting of the 12th Parliament on September 1, 2020, the PPP/C Government proposed a Budget for Constitutional Agencies, notwithstanding the fact that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee had not submit a Budget or Budget Proposal of the Audit Office of Guyana for the approval and consideration by the National Assembly.
Further, Forde said contrary to Law, the Government approached the National Assembly without first circulating the Budget or Budget Proposal of the Constitutional Agencies to the members of the Opposition prior to September 1, 2020.
In an attempt to justify Government’s actions, the Attorney General pointed to the fact that there was no National Budget in place for the first nine months of 2020 due to the political situation that had confronted Guyana. He said in the absence of a Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who ought to be appointed by the Opposition, Government thought it best to move ahead with the process.
“All of the formalities cannot be complied with; procedural requirements, all of them, cannot be met. In these circumstances, you try to satisfy the main substance of the law, and if you cannot comply with the procedural requirement, then you will have to necessarily ignore them. But what is the greater good, getting the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee as the law says to present a budget of the Audit Office or to get the budget of the Audit Office presented,” Nandlall reasoned.
On Tuesday, Forde told Village Voice GY that the Attorney General’s response is an admission of a conscious and deliberate breach of the law.
“The law requires that the chair of the Public Accounts Committee [to] act. It is simply an opportunity for them to breach the law and to exclude the performance of the statutory duty of the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee,” Forde said.
He said notwithstanding these breaches, the Government used their “fraudulent and tainted” majority to pass the proposed budgets with little or no scrutiny.
When asked to respond to the attacks on his character by the Attorney General, the Senior Counsel had this to say:
“Nandlall is clearly upset that I showed the Guyanese people and the world his incompetence. He should get more used to being upset. As a matter of fact, the abuse he has suffered at the hands of his party amounts to political violence.
He is upset that he was overlooked and rejected as his party’s Presidential Candidate. The office of Attorney General which he holds is a consolation prize. He is clearly upset that I was recognized nationally for exposing the deceit and deception he and his party was engaging in. I was amused when he said that I was new to the Parliament as if that somehow disentitles me from exposing his ineptitude. Thanks to his own Party he is already apparently in his twilight years.”