GECOM’s Budget slash of $800M approved

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-$10B requested by 16 Agencies reduced to $8B

Budgetary Allocations for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was on Friday reduced by a whopping $800M and now stands at $2.9B in contrast to the initial $3.7B requested by the Constitutional Agency.

Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira expressed reservations over the significant cut highlighting that Local Government Elections have been set for December 7, 2018, and would need the full $3.7B it requested to carry out its mandate.

“[I’m] trying to comprehend why this Government would cut your election machinery …when local Government is right around the corner,” she told the House.

She noted that the most worrying party of the reduction was that previous budget presentations under this Administration have shown consistent decreases in monies allocated for the GECOM.

However, in his bid to provide an explanation to Teixeira’s probes, the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said that due to the fact that there were “back to back elections” in 2015 and 2016, GECOM would have acquired significant hardware and software which would not have to be duplicated in 2018.

He also noted that the entity also feels comfortable and confident with the monetary allocations provided for them to finance Local Government Elections.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

Jordan also asserted that if the Constitutional body fell short on resources, they were aware that they could always approach Government.

Meanwhile, Teixeira brushed his explanation aside, highlighting that “that’s not the point.”

According to her, since there will to be no Local Government Elections this year, it would mean that there was no continuous registration, no issuance of Identification Cards, among other mandatory procedures, as such, for 2018, the cost will be amplified.

During her heated argument, the Opposition Chief Whip was interrupted by the Speaker of the House, Dr Barton Scotland who essentially requested that she get to the point of her question.

However, indicating that she was feeling pressured, Teixeira called on the Speaker to place that same “pressure” on Minister Jordan so that he could provide suitable answers for the budget cuts.

This was met with Scotland requesting that the Opposition Member take her seat, but the obviously irritated Opposition Member contended that she had a right to an answer.

Nevertheless, the Finance Minister opted to refrain from providing a further explanation and instead directed the House to his written explanation in the comment section of his recommendations.

“The recommended allocation takes into account the economic outlook for 2018 for revenue, expenditure and growth in the economy, challenges in implementation encountered in 2017 and annualisation of salaries. Please note Budget 2018 submission did not fufill the requirements of the 2018 Budget Circular, paragraph 5.5, i.e, no procurement plan was submitted for Budget 2018,” it stated.

This prompted former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand to question why the reason for budget cuts on almost every single Constitutional Agency had the same explanation.

Priya Manickchand

Realising that no answer would be provided for her question, Manickchand moved on to assert that with the GECOM now having a Chairman- with the unilateral appointment of Justice James Patterson- there are expectations that the body will spend more than 2016- when it was without a chairman.

She pointed out that $3B was allocated for the GECOM in 2016.

Again, no explanation or justification came from the Governing side of the House.

“I gave an explanation and I don’t believe I can go over that explanation,” was Jordan’s lone response.

Service Commissions cut by 40%

Meanwhile,the Budget Provisions for the Public and Police Service Commissions for 2018 was on Friday cut by approximately 40 per cent of the amount requested by the constitutional agency.

The Commissions requested a total of $158,709,000 for 2018, however, Government argued that only $95,140,000 will be allocated to the agency.

Opposition Member, Ganga Persaud sought to probe the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan as to what deliberations were taken  to have the requested amount reduce so significantly. He further questioned Government as to how comfortable they are with the sum suggested, and whether they believe that the sum will be adequate for the Commissions to complete their work.

However, Jordan provided a standard answer in accordance to the Minister’s Recommendations and Comments for the Constitutional Agencies Budget 2018.

“The recommended allocation takes into account the economic outlook for 2018 for revenue, expenditure and growth in the economy, challenges in implementation encountered in 2017 and annualisation of salaries. Please note Budget 2018 submission did not fufill the requirements of the 2018 Budget Circular, paragraph 5.5, i.e, no procurement plan was submitted for Budget 2018,” it stated.

Persaud pointed out that Jordan only provided an “objective response to a subjective question.”

Former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee also opted to ask Jordan whether he believed cutting a requested budgetary allowance by 40 per cent would be enough for the entities to fulfill their responsibilities.

Jordan then asserted that he did not consider the reduction a “cut” but more of a “context of budget 2018.”

Rohee then placed the spotlight on the fact that the two Commissions are yet to be established and as such questioned how exactly the monies would be utlised.

“Could the Minister give us an idea as to how it is intended to have the monies spent by two bodies who are virtually non-existent?” Rohee asked.

Jordan also opted to deflect the question and instead only responded with “I’ll only speak to the lump sum.”

The matter was then passed in the National Assembly before the Speaker of the House.

In the end all of the cuts made to the 16 Constitutional agencies were approved by the Governing side of the House.

Outlined below are the agencies with, among other things, their requested amounts and the amounts approved:

AGENCY Budget 2017 + Supplementary Provision

(total G$)

 

Budget 2018 Request

(total G$)

Budget 2018 Approved

(total G$)

1.     Parliament Office 1,519,506,000 1,739,832,000 1,578,100,000
2.    Office of the Auditor General 754,910,000 844,422,000 783,816,000
3.     Public and Police Service Commissions 91,603,000 158,709,000 95,140,000
4.    Teaching Service Commission 123,952,000 125,158,000 125,158,000
5.     Guyana Elections Commission 2,029,933,000 3,715,210,000 2,900,000,000
6.    Supreme Court 1,766,079,000 2,753,863,000 1,874,730,000
7.     Public Prosecutions 168,357,000 223,882,000 174,290,000
8.    Office of the Ombudsman 48,311,000 64,098,000 57,813,000
9.    Public Service Appellate Tribunal 35,052,000 105,550,000 51,884,000
10. Ethnic Relations Commission 84,982,000 142,269,000 86,534,000
11.  Judicial Service Commission 10,020,000 10,020,000 10,020,000
12. Indigenous People’s Commission 24,424,000 27,372,000 25,683,000
13.  Human Rights Commission 34,110,000 31,113,000 31,113,000
14. Rights of the Child Commission 41,581,000 53,805,000 42,695,000
15.  Women and Gender Equality Commission 42,000,000 45,997,000 43,135,000
16. Public Prosecution Commission 138,319,000 251,912,000 177,666,000
TOTAL 6,913,139,000 10,293,212,000 8,057,837,000

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