Transparency, accountability agencies under attack, says Jagdeo

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Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo believes the work of key constitutional agencies that have oversight on financial transparency and accountability is being impaired as a result of the cuts on their budget submissions.

He was referring specifically to cuts to the Auditor General’s Office and the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) budget proposals. It was reported that the Government had slashed a significant amount of monies from the budgets submitted by the 16 constitutional agencies. This move, Jagdeo said, will hinder the work of these agencies. 

“So you see a pattern here… they have cut the budgets of the two bodies that are designed to look after transparency of financial affairs in the State. So, it tells you a lot about how they’re approaching this matter,” he posited during his weekly press conference at his Church Street, Georgetown office.

Seeking to justify the cuts, Finance Minister Winston Jordan explained on Wednesday that the cuts were necessary because the State’s current fiscal space cannot facilitate the entire budgetary requests made by these bodies.

He noted that while these agencies are allowed to make their requests, he has to review these submissions and make recommendations of the allocations based on the resources available. 

Jagdeo pointed out though that not only does the cuts impair these agencies, especially the Auditor General’s Office’s capability of doing existing work, much less the new responsibilities that would be added from the impending oil and gas sector.

“Even the scrutiny that they are doing now would be impaired because they can’t do special investigations etc. And similar too, if the Public Procurement Commission has a sum of money and they have several investigations to do and you cut that sum of money, then they can only do limited numbers of investigations,” he stated.

The Auditor General’s Office had requested $894.2 million, including $876.8 million for current expenditure and $17.3 million for capital spending. While the Finance Ministry left the capital sum requested by the audit office intact, it reduced the current expenditure figure that would cater for operational expenses, to $854.6 million.

Meanwhile, the PPC had requested $276.7 million, which includes $22.2 million for capital funding and $254.4 million for current spending. Again, the Ministry cut almost $45 million from the current sum requested and $12.8 million from its capital request.

Back in 2015, the coalition Government had amended the laws and removed the constitutional bodies from under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, thus allowing no consultations between these agencies and the Finance Ministry in the preparation of their budget submissions.

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