By Tracey Khan – Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Former President Bharrat Jagdeo has revealed that he spoke to incumbent President, Donald Ramotar about reviewing medical benefits of Government Ministers/officials.
This follows the shocking revelation that several government ministers were given millions of dollars in assistance for medical expenses including dental care.
Dr. Jagdeo made his position known on Tuesday March 10 at his first Press Conference in three years, which was held at the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Freedom House Headquarters.
“He said to me that he plans to change this policy, that while he can’t take away benefits from constitutional post of elected people including the Leader of the Opposition, he will move mainly maybe to a policy of insurance, so that the charges against the consolidated funds will be limited. So for example if you spend $300,000 a year to create a policy for the person then that’s the extent of the exposure of the treasury,” the former President explained.
This new policy, if adopted by President Ramotar, has already received endorsement from Jagdeo.
“So he has recognized that this can’t continue and he has made it clear that he intends to change this.”
Jagdeo admitted that certain issues should not be funded by the State.
It was Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon who defended the medical assistance stating that it has been inherited and supported by successive governments of Guyana.
According to Dr. Luncheon, this is what obtained prior to the PPP/C taking office in 1992, and it is what the PPP/C continued to implement in the years to follow.
The Stabroek News had reported that the late Presidential Advisor Navin Chandarpal was at the head of the list, with $116 million spent for cancer treatment. Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s medical expenses which were met by the taxpayer totaled $4.9 million, with “medical support” being listed as the diagnosis, while Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Ali Baksh had a coronary bypass for which the state paid $12.2 million.
The government also paid his air fare, which amounted to $249,600. According to the Stabroek News, Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy, accounted for $1million, the late former Minister of Education Dale Bisnauth ($1.6 million) and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, also now deceased ($2.1 million).
It was noted that Gitanjali Singh of the Audit Office and wife of Minister of Finance Ashni Singh, whose medical expenses in Canada together with her air fare amounted to over $3.4 million. Former Justice BS Roy was given $5.9 million for a coronary bypass which this time was done in Trinidad.
Additionally, Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai received $2.1 million from the government for dental work, while Minister of Human Services Jennifer Webster was the recipient of $1.3 million, also for dental work.