[www.inewsguyana.com]- Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman has referred Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh to the Committee of Privileges where select MPs will assess his conduct in spending some $4.5 billion from the national purse.
According to Trotman, it is his opinion that the issue of the spending by the Minister does raise sufficient and serious questions and recommends that it be enquired into by the Committee.
The Speaker was ruling on a Motion submitted by Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greendige regarding the authorization of expenditure from the consolidated fund.
But according to Attorney General, Anil Nandlall the issue raised in the Motion is purely a legal one.
He concludes that the issue which has been referred to the Privileges Committee by the Speaker is hardly a matter of “privilege but rather it is a matter of law and constitutional interpretation.”
The Speaker observed that the Minister, without parliamentary approval, spent money which includes expenditures that were not authorized by the House, particularly during the 2014 budget consideration.
Trotman said while the Minister relies on Article 218 (3) as the legal basis for his spending, Greenidge has complained that the Minister has breached his parliamentary privilege and/or is in contempt of Parliament by spending unauthorized money.
The Speaker made it clear that the Standing Orders of the House affords him the right to determine whether or not there is prima facie evidence that there has been a breach and has so done.
Trotman pointed out that it is not for him to determine guilt or innocence but maintains that on the face of the complaint there is sufficient evidence to warrant a probe.
In fact and prior to the Speaker’s ruling, the Opposition has long maintained that the Minister’s spending was illegal, a contention he has debunked at length.
The Alliance for Change (AFC) has since made an official complaint to the Guyana Police Force and has threatened to bring a no –confidence vote against the administration if President Donald Ramotar does not stop Dr. Singh from spending without Parliamentary approval.
The Minister will now have to prove his case before the Privileges Committee and defend his spending as legal. After which recommendations will be made on what course of action will be taken against Dr. Singh.
In fact, the Minister was taken before the Committee several months ago for spending of a similar nature. However, the Committee is yet to convene a meeting to address the issue.
Dr. Singh told iNews recently that he will do it again because he did nothing wrong in the first place.
The Attorney General says however that in the circumstances, over the next few days, Government will be considering its options. Resort to a legal challenge of this ruling is one of them.