By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang on Friday, February 13, ruled that Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh acted outside the law when he spent $4.5B from Guyana’s treasury, although the National Assembly had disapproved spending of the monies.
This decision from the Chief Justice was part of a ruling made in a case brought before the High Court by Leader of the Opposition David Granger, accusing the Finance Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall in aiding the unauthorised spending of the more than $36.7 billion, which was disapproved in the National Budget.
Basil Williams, lead Attorney representing the interest of Granger during the trial made the announcement after a short hearing with the Chief Justice on Friday afternoon.
According to Williams, “He [the Chief Justice] has found it to be unconstitutional, that were not approved by the Parliament…in other words once Parliament disapproves something the government cannot spend it.”
Williams told Reporters that the decision is welcomed given that it would mean that the Finance Minister is to be held accountable for the spending of monies not approved by Guyana’s National Assembly.
“It is a good decision for us, because it tells you that the Minister of Finance cannot override the decision of the Parliament,” Williams.
Meanwhile, Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge said that “the decision confirmed that the expenditure undertaken is…illegal.”
He pointed out too that the Statement of Excess was never approved by the House. This is despite the fact that the House met a number of times before it was prorogued last year.
According to Greenidge, the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act points to sanctions and even jail time for persons found culpable of spending monies from Guyana’s treasury without approval from the National Assembly.
He said that the Finance Minister and “a number of officials in the Ministry and the Ministries that undertook the expenditure” can find themselves answering to the law following this ruling by the Chief Justice.
But according to the Attorney General, it is important to note that the conservatory order was not granted since there were no grounds for it to be done.
He said that “no case was made out for a conservatory order to be granted…in essence the application of Mr. Granger has been disapproved by the Court, the Court finds it has no basis…the conservatory order has been refused.”
He lamented that within Article 218 of Guyana’s constitution, provisions were made for excesses and these allow for “a curative mechanism to be employed to cure the violation of (Article) 217.”
He maintained that the ruling confirms the government’s position that the conservatory order “ought not to have been granted.”