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Wilson Ramos Jersey following the November floods in Georgetown

Government yesterday managed to gain the support of the political opposition to vote affirmatively on two financial papers representing more than $1.4B spent last year in November and December.Shadow Finance Minister, Carl GreenidgeYesterday’s scrutiny of the Financial Papers saw for the first time, supplementary requests for moneys, fully complying with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, in that there was attached to documents more details on what the expenditure was used on as well as the impact the expenditure will have.A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge, welcomed the move and drew reference to a previous position held by Substantive Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, who said that he would not allow the consideration of any Financial Papers that did not meet the requirements of the law.Greenidge did point out that while the move is welcomed, the details that were provided still had shortcomings.SHADICK PRESIDESBibi Shadick presided over yesterday’s sitting and opined that the move was a step in the right direction and in future improvements can be made.Shadick was elected to sit as Speaker for the day, given that Trotman is overseas and Deputy Speaker, Deborah Backer is ill and is overseas receiving treatment.Shadick was nominated by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, a nomination which was seconded by APNU’s Chief Whip, Amna Ally.The expenditure first up for scrutiny by the opposition were two subsidies provided by the Finance Ministry, one to the tune of $263M to the Linden Electricity Company and another $13.3M to the Kwakani Utilities Inc.Junior Finance Minister, Bishop Juan EdghillAPNU’s Greenidge queried what necessitated the increase in subsidies and was told that it related to the increased generation and provision of electricity in the two communities as well as increases in oil prices.The Finance Minister was unable however to give a proper breakdown of how the money was used and told the House that an invoice would be presented to the Ministry for a lump sum.Prime Minister Hinds explained that the requests would usually be reviewed by his office first before the invoice is sent to the Finance Ministry.URGENT, UNFORSEEN AND UNANTICIPATEDPressed on how the Ministry could justify the expenditure as urgent and unforeseen, Dr Singh explained by saying, “we can’t anticipate with perfect foresight the volume of electricity to be consumed especially by a large community like Linden.” He also said that it was tied to the movement in oil price.The Foreign Affairs Minister was also grilled on an amount of money sent to St Vincent and the Grenadines,Lucas Leiva Liverpool Jersey UK, St Lucia and Dominica among others which were recently hit with severe flooding.Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, the Substantive Minister, informed the House that the afflicted governments had indicated that they prefer the cash as against the list of needs that had been determined by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).The governments, she said, wanted to avoid having different countries sending the same supplies.APNU’s Winston FelixShe explained that the amounts were determined by Government, based on Guyana’s affordability.ILLEGAL BRIDGE TOLLMinister within the Ministry of Local Government, Norman Whittaker, was grilled over a $24M allocation which was used to provide some relief in Georgetown following the recent floods and the Region 10 Municipality.Greenidge pointed out to the House that the initial voted provision was for $5M and that the supplementary request was for a whopping $24M. This, he suggested, was not consistent with principle of good management,Harrison Butker Jersey, and he asked whether the Minister had an acceptable answer.“What makes this expenditure urgent and unanticipated?”Minister Whittaker told the House that as it relates to $9M of the $24M, this was used to pay the wages and salaries to a number of workers in the Region 10 Municipality. He said that the Council had appealed for help, as it was unable to raise the money after it was forced to remove what he called an “illegal toll” to cross the Mackenzie Bridge.Asked how come this happened, given the fact that the Ministry knew that there would be problems for the municipality’s revenue stream in relation to the problem with the toll, Minister Whittaker denied that at the time of the preparation of the budget they were aware that the toll would be an issue.Speaker for the day, Bibi ShadickFLOODSAs it relates to the additional $15M, he said that the Ministry, following the November floods in Georgetown, did an assessment of the conditions in Georgetown and decided that it needs to pitch in. The money was however not turned over to the Georgetown Town Council, but in fact utilized by the Ministry.APNU’s Joseph Harmon took umbrage to this explanation,Samaje Perine Jersey, given that it was the Town Council’s purview to deal with the drainage conditions.Despite arguing that the clean-up is routine and that the money could not be urgent and unforeseen, it was voted for by the political opposition.Public Service Minister Jennifer Westford was also questioned in relation to a Supplementary Provision of $50M. She explained that it had in part to do with the fluctuation of the US dollar as well as an increase in airfares to return students.Westford told the House that 25 students had graduated later than the others and government could not have some 200-odd students sitting overseas waiting.SCHOOLSEducation Minister,Priya Manickchand was questioned in relation to two provisions of $19M and $13.5M. She told the House that the US$19M was as a result of the statutory payment of a minimum wage.Home Affairs Minister, Clement RoheeManickchand informed the House that the money was used to ensure that the Ministry complied with the legislation. She noted too that the $13.5M was used to clean some 33 schools in Georgetown.APNU’s Amna Ally questioned whether any moneys would be used for the cleaning of schools in the lower Pomeroon, which was also affected by flooding, and according to Manickchand, those schools would be dealt with by the Ministry of Local Government.Greenidge had questions for the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.He wanted him to explain why the Ministry needed an additional $160M for what could be termed as routine maintenance and how can it be classified as urgent and unforeseen expenditure.Dr Ramsammy explained that as it relates to the equipment, the Ministry had purchased additional machinery but at the time of its Budget, it could have only made a request for those it had already in its fleet. He said that with the acquisition of the additional equipment it would have then needed the extra money for its maintenance.4000 HECTARESRamsammy said too that a portion of the money also had to do with the fact that the Ministry had to extend a number of drainage infrastructure.This, he said, resulted in the fact that a number of private farmers extended their farmlands for the cultivation of rice by some 4000 hectares.Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee was also grilled over a number of chartered flights the police had used to the tune of $69M. Rohee was unable to provide the details, but did undertake to obtain it and provide the opposition with the answers at a future date.LINDO CREEK SKELETAL REMAINSAs it relates to an additional $15M for the Guyana Police Force under the line item “other” the Minister told the House that this was the pay for the storage of the remains of those killed in the Lindo Creek massacre.He said that the remains had to be held in storage until the completion of the investigation.The payment was for the holding of the skeletal remains at a local funeral home between the years 2008 and 2011.APNU’s Winston Felix and others sought to query the provisions of a number of allocations made to the Guyana Defence Force. Under a number of line items, the GDF received $237Munder the maintenance line item, Felix described this allocation as programmable and scheduled and as such it could not be unforeseen and of an emergency nature.NATIONAL SECURITYJunior Finance Minister,Jack Lambert Steelers Jersey, Bishop Juan Edghill spoke to the fact that there were a number of new vehicles purchased and given the nature of the operations of the GDF they would have had to be repaired and serviced.The Minister was asked about the total compliment of the vehicles for the GDF,Dwyane Wade Bulls Swingman Jersey, but he declined to provide any answers saying that the security committee would be a more apt forum to discuss the matter, given the security implications.“With greatest respect to members of the House, the administration has been quite detailed…We are dealing with matters of national security and would prefer to have them dealt with at another level.”The provisions for the GDF were all approved and when the entire financial paper was put to a vote, the House was unanimous.A second Financial Paper was also voted on affirmatively,Jorge Valdivia Jersey, and according to the Finance Minister, that Supplementary request which dealt with some $412M, had to do with outside funding and the exercise was merely to bring the funds into the accounts of Government.He said that the moneys would have been disbursed given that the projects being funded would have accelerated beyond what was anticipated at the time of the budget.
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