GuySuCo never requested $400M for mechanization following budget approval – Opposition

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Leader of the AFC and Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Khemraj Ramjattan 

…PAC Chair cautions against Gov’t misleading nation 

The A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has refuted claims that while in Government it denied the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) some $400M intended for mechanization, contending that the cooperation and the union were concerned about the displacement of workers, and opted not to utilize the funds.

The issued surfaced during Monday’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting, and on Tuesday, the Coalition Members of Parliament – in particular Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan; Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Jermaine Figueira; and PAC Member Ganesh Mahipaul – sought to set the record straight during a virtual press conference.

Ramjattan explained that prior to the APNU+AFC taking in 2015, the IDB and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government had agreed to a loan for the agricultural sector.

The loan, in part, was intended to finance the trial of mechanisation of harvesting in the sugar sector.

APNU+AFC MP Ganesh Mahipaul

In the preparation of the 2016 budget, GuySuCo had requested that a $400M capital allocation be made available for the mechanisation of the Uitvlugt and Enmore Estates. The money was obtained by the government from the IDB for allocation towards this capital purpose.

“Consequent upon discussions and a revisitation by GuySuCo’s officials on the issue, this sum was never requested by GuySuCo from the Government although the allocation was there. Firstly, the argument was that since these are the wettest estates in the country, mechanisation must be put on hold until further data is accumulated on the wetness of land and on the specifications of the machinery that is to be acquired. And, secondly, GAWU wanted to know how many workers will be displaced by mechanization,” Ramjattan explained.

He said at the end of 2017, GuySuCo had failed to provide the required response, and in fact, had not requested the money. As such the sum was reverted to the IDB as unspent.

“It is outrageous that the PPP through Bishop Juan Edghill now comes up with the cock and bull propaganda that the Coalition was not supportive of the mechanisation of the sector. That is what we had wanted and had been calling for rather than the perpetuation of the kind of slave labour in hand cutting,” Ramjattan said.

He said contrary to reports, APNU+AFC pumped billions of dollars into GuySuCo. In the latter half of 2015, the coalition injected over $16B into the sugar corporation, and then in 2016, an additional $11B was given in current expenditure.

In other sections of the media, the coalition was accused of inappropriately spending $173.7M in 2016 from its special-projects bank account. But MP Mahipaul said Government’s Chief Whip and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira was dishonest, in her response on the issue.

The monies in the Special-projects Bank Account were revenues garnered from different sources, such as the National Cultural Centre, Digicel, and the Guyana Lotteries Commission among other agencies, and according to MP Mahipaul, the system dates back to 2010 when the PPP/C was in office.

“I would like the media and the wider population to know that the APNU+AFC inherited a system where the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports had an account where they were storing revenues that they received from other areas such the National Cultural Centre, the Guyana Lotteries Commission, Digicel and a number of other organisations,” he said.

He said the Special-Projects Bank Account dates back to 2010, and was mentioned in the Auditor General’s Reports of 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. He said that it was the coalition that upon realizing there was an issue, changed the system to have all funds directed to the Consolidated Fund.

“But we do not have it in the Auditor General’s Reports of 2017, 2018, 2019 and we will not have it in the Auditor General Report of 2020 and that is because the APNU+AFC Coalition in Government recognized the problem, fixed the problem, and monies from this Special Purpose Account were no longer stored by the ministry, and is no longer spent by the ministry, it is sent by the consolidated fund,” he explained. He said requested funds are budgeted for in accordance with the law.

The PAC Chair warned MPs against using information coming out of the PAC to score cheap political points, noting that the PAC is no battle ground for political parties.

He said it is expected that all members of the PAC act professionally.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Jermaine Figueira

“It has legislative functions of varying factors and degrees, and it is expected by all members for us to be professional, for us to be objective, and peruse the audited accounts presented by the Auditor General with respect to the allocations made to various ministries and agencies from the budgetary allocations, and that is why we are here primarily, to give efficacy to the roles and functions that are supposed to be executed by all members of either side of the committee when it comes to matters of the public purse,” the PAC Chair said.

He said it is the duty of the PAC Members to ensure transparency and accountability and that the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) be followed.

In light of concerns of the possible spread of misinformation, MP Figueira, in response to a question posed, said he will propose to the PAC the meeting be livestreamed for the benefit of the public.

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