Finance Minister ignored the requirement of the law in relation to a supplementary appropriation bill

In a letter published on May 17, 2012 (‘In accordance with the law?’ SN)I drew attention to an exchange in the National Assembly between the Speaker and the Minister of Finance following a question raised by Mr Khemraj Ramjattan during the debate on what soon entered into the public psyche simply as Paper 7. That paper was part of Supplementary Appropriation (No 3 of 2011) Bill 2011.

The exchange centred around a requirement of section 24 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) that on the presentation of a supplementary appropriation Bill, the Minister, in addition to providing the reasons for the proposed variations must also provide “a supplementary document describing the impact that the variations, if approved will have on the financial plan in the annual budget.”

At the time of that debate, the supplementary document had not been provided. For ease of reference here again is that exchange as recorded in the official parliamentary record:

Speaker: Hon Minister of Finance, will you be in a position to give an undertaking that you will accord and abide by the conditions of the Act?

Dr Singh: Mr Speaker, as has always been the case, the relevant submission will be made in accordance with the law.

I pointed out then that Dr Singh had misled the National Assembly, not ever having presented in close to fifteen supplementary appropriations bills introduced by him since 2006, any supplementary document required by section 24 of the FMAA.

Dr Singh again came to the National Assembly on August 9, 2012 with Supplementary Appropriation (No 1 of 2012) Bill for $13,739,733,521. Without having met the obligation and undertaking given by him in respect of Paper 7, Dr Singh again ignored the requirement of the law.

Disappointingly, neither the parliamentary opposition nor the Speaker sought to remind Dr Singh about the requirement of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. They granted him authority to spend a further $11.9 billion without any information or understanding of the impact of their vote on the country’s 2012 finances, leaving everyone with the question whether they might have voted differently had they known the consequences of their decision. In the process the Assembly reinforced Dr Singh’s demonstrated disdain for the national body, the country’s laws and indeed all Guyanese.

I am copying this letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly with the hope that future supplementary provisions are dealt with strictly in accordance with all statutory requirements. The country deserves better.

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