Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams on Wednesday pleaded guilty to what he describes as an “inadvertent mistake” on the part of the Ministry of Finance with regards to how figures are represented in the 2017 National Estimates.
Williams was at the time being grilled over allocations under his remit in the Ministry of Legal Affairs and was pointed to provisions where even though there were no budget allocations, revised figures for the previous year showed that monies to the tune of millions of dollars was in fact spent.
The Attorney General was pointed to the fact that this obtained despite there being no Supplementary Provisions, nor was there a budget sum outlined, yet the Ministry still went ahead and spent monies.
It was at this point in time that the Minster conceded that the mix up was as a result of an ‘inadvertent mistake by Ministry of Finance.’
He explained that the mistake was associated with the adjustment of different program heads in the Budget.
‘Proper Vehicle this time’
Williams was also forced to defend the allocation of $19.7M for the purchase a single vehicle.
According to Minster Williams, while the Ministry is yet to determine the type and make of the vehicle to be purchased, it is in fact to be used by him.
Williams told the House, “the Attorney General will be having a proper vehicle this time.”
He had prefaced his supposition by pointing to the practice of his predecessors, saying that a brand-new vehicle was supposed to have been purchase in 2015 but this did not obtain.
Williams told the House that that the transaction undertaken by the former Permanent Secretary resulted in the purchase of a used vehicle.
Acquisition of lands
As Parliament proceedings continued, Williams was placed in the spotlight after it became obvious that he was not giving definitive answers regarding the 2016 Budget allocation of $40.7M which went unused by the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Williams was continuously drilled with questions by Opposition Member, Anil Nandlall and Shadow Finance Minister, Irfaan Ali.
His answer to why the money- which was intended to be used on buildings- was not utilized, Williams stated that the “entire amount was sent back to the Consolidated Fund.”
However, Ali asked that Williams correct his answer, since the documents disclosed that over $700,000 of the sum had been utilized.
Williams rebutted that he was advised that approximately $733,000 was used to conduct repairs on the Ministry of Legal Affairs’ building.
Reiterating his question, Nandalall demanded that Williams explain why the money was not used. As such, the Attorney General stated that the Ministry decided against pursuing the transaction.
He also noted that the $40.7M was allocated initially with the intentions to “advance acquisition of lands.”
However, Williams refused to tell the House where the lands were located, highlighting that he did not find it necessary to disclose.
Williams however, during a press conference earlier this year, had already outlined to the media that options were being assessed to determine whether Government could compulsorily acquire two plots of Carmichael Street land for $40M- one plot belonging Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada Clarissa Riehl, while the other to Beharry Group of Companies- for the purposes of expanding the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
This intended move was criticized by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) who, among other things, noted that such moves are “always viewed with a high level of skepticism and reservation by investors globally. Whilst such acts may be legal, they dampen investor confidence as they deem their right to own property to be insecure and their investments to be under threat.”
Over $100M for Special Prosecutors
Another of the heated exchanges between the Opposition Members of Parliament and Williams obtained during the consideration of the expenditure under the remit of the Minster of Legal Affairs and Attorney General to set aside more than $100M for the payment of legal services.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, questioned the need for the expenditure for the payment of legal services.
According to Williams however, the money has been identified to pay the Special Prosecutors hinted to by the Administration to go after persons suspected of siphoning off state assets.
According to Williams, the administration is steadfast in its pursuit of state assets that had been stolen, “we are very serious about that.”
The special prosecution teams to be established will handle the legal proceedings to be initiated with regards the prosecution of criminal charges into the Sparendaam Housing Project, known as Pradoville Two and the operations of the Guyana Cricket World Cup Inc.
Inews understands that two lawyers have since been identified as Special Prosecutors, after recommendations were made by the Attorney General.
The Attorney General was also asked to provide answers in relation to allocations surrounding the imminent establishment of a Law Reform Commission in addition to other Justice Modernization initiatives, among others, before getting the approval of the House for over $606M in expenditures for 2017.