AG asks Court to refuse Patterson’s request over budget allocations to constitutional agencies

Attorney General Anil Nandlall
Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, is asking the High Court to refuse a declaration sought by APNU/AFC Parliamentarian David Patterson, that the consideration and approval of budget proposals for constitutional agencies by the National Assembly on September 01, 2020, were done contrary to Section 80 B(2) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).

Patterson, who is the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and who previously served as Public Infrastructure Minister under the previous APNU/AFC Government, complains that the proposals were not made available to his party before September 01, 2020, and as such a breach of the Act was committed.

However, Nandlall in an Affidavit in Defence, contends that there is no issue in controversy and as such is asking the court to refuse the orders and declarations being sought by Patterson “since it would serve no useful purpose.” In fact, the Attorney General contends that failure to circulate the budget proposals for 23 constitutional agencies is justified by the doctrine of necessity.

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) David Patterson

Nandlall submitted that Guyana was plunged into a constitutional crisis when the APNU/AFC refused to give up office after being defeated by a no-confidence motion and the protracted March 2020 elections which placed the country on a trajectory of constitutional default.

Against this backdrop, he said that there was an absolute necessity to safeguard the continuation of the effective functioning of the country and there was no other course of action reasonably available to the PPP/C Government than the passing of an emergency budget.

According to Nandlall, in passing the emergency budget, the Government did not impair the just rights of citizens under the Constitution but rather sought to safeguard their health and safety and to provide much-needed resources and services.

“… the emergency budget was reasonably necessary in the interest of peace, order, and good government,” he submitted.

While the Court has jurisdiction as guardian of the Constitution to interrogate the actions of the Government, Nandlall argued that the intention of Parliament cannot be questioned or inquired into by the courts unless it was purely against the constitutional ethos or spirit.

The Attorney General advanced that in the absence of a budget during the elections period, Guyana’s economy and productive sectors continued to plummet and the effective functioning of the State as a whole became almost impossible.

Fuelling that, he noted, was the fatal COVID-19 pandemic which brought with it a heightened demand for health care services and brought the economy to a grinding halt.

In the context of the unprecedented events in Guyana’s constitutional history and the extenuating circumstances, the Attorney General, therefore, contends that Patterson’s Claim is academic since the budget was an emergency budget and the monies were expended and the life of that budget expired since December 2020.

But Patterson maintains that the lack of compliance with the process renders the consideration and/or approval of the 2020 budget bad in law, null, and of no legal effect.

Patterson is also hoping that the court would grant him a declaration that the budget and/or proposal of the Audit Office ought to have been submitted to Parliament by the Chairperson of the PAC before approval and consideration by the National Assembly in keeping with the FMAA.