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…following High Court ruling
By Svetlana Marshall
Two months after the High Court ruled that aspects of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act of 2021 are unconstitutional, the Irfaan Ali Administration has moved to the National Assembly to effect the necessary amendments to bring the law in conformity with the Constitution.
It was in October that the High Court ruled that the budgetary process used by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration had violated the Constitution. It was explained that constitutional agencies ought not to have been lumped with budgetary agencies as they constitute a direct charge upon the Consolidated Fund.
On Monday (December 13), Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh presented the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill to the National Assembly, in an attempt to undo the current violations.
The Bill, which has a total of six clauses, will see the process for the submission and approval of the budgets of Constitutional Agencies being adjusted.
It seeks to amendment Sections 13, 15, 80A and 80B of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act as well as the Schedule of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act and Section 40 of the Audit Act.
Once amended Constitutional Agencies will be clearly identified as Constitutional Agencies and not categorise as Budget Agencies as is the case under the current legislation.
Importantly, the Bill seeks to amend the Act by deleting sections 80A and 80B, and replacing them with two new sections.
Under these new sections, each Constitutional Agency will submit their Budget to the Minister for review.
According to the proposed Section 80A (2): “The Minister shall review the budget submission of each Constitutional Agency and shall include in the annual budget proposal a lump sum subvention recommended by the Minister for each Constitutional Agency for approval by the National Assembly, along with the disaggregation of the recommended lump sum subvention by expenditure classification in an appendix to the annual estimates.”
The constitutional agencies, for which the Bill covers, are the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Judicial Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission, the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, the Public Procurement Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Guyana Elections Commission, Parliament Office, Supreme Court of Judicature, Ethnic Relations Commission, Human Rights Commission, Women and Gender Equality Commission, Indigenous People’s Commission, Rights of the Child Commission and the Office of the Auditor General.
It was Opposition Member of Parliament, Ganesh Mahipaul, who, together with a number of civil society representatives, had challenged the budgetary process employed by the Government.