Government’s spending for the first half of 2016 has increased by almost 90 percent when compared to the corresponding period in 2015. This has been ascribed by Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan to the increase in government’s expenditure as it relates to the funding of constitutional agencies.
The Finance Minister at a recent press conference held recently at the Ministry’s Main Street office, to discuss the country’s economic performance at the mid-year mark, said,
“For the first time in history, amounts for constitutional agencies were budgeted as a lump sum and they were treated as transfer,” Minister Jordan said.
Under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s administration, constitutional agencies were budgeted for under various government ministries. This, many argued, did not allow for independence of the said agencies.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed by a simple majority a mere two months after the APNU +AFC Coalition assumed office. The amendments therein contained, protect constitutional agencies from interference by the Executive, namely the Finance Minister, so that he has no say in the preparation of their budgets to meet their yearly expenditures, and they draw their funds directly from the Consolidated Fund.
“The law requires that within one month of the passage of the budget all of these agencies get their money en bloc so it’s not as if we can cut it up in 12 pieces over the 12 months of the year. We have to give them as a one shot, the entire sum that has been voted, so that will give a significant impact in our first half [expenditure] going forward now every year,” Minister Jordan explained.
“For the first half of last year, we made transfers to GuySuco of about $3.8 B. This year as we have indicated in the press we have transferred the entire yearly sum voted for this year of $9B within the first half, so all of those new features would have conspired to increase the expenditure in the first half [of the year] by 89.4 percent.”
Further, the Minister explained that while this is the expected norm henceforth, the amount expended by constitutional agencies will be much higher in an election year since according to the minister, “GECOM which is a statutory agency has to have all that money to run an election [and] will reflect itself then.”
The Bill known as the Constitution Amendment Bill 2015 was first read in the National Assembly on June 25, 2015. This was followed by a second reading, examination in a select committee and passage on July 9, 2015. It was assented to by President David Granger on July 10, 2015.
The passage of the Bill amended the Third Schedule relating to article 222 A of the Constitution, by assuring independence to those entities listed therein. The entities include the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, the Rights of the Child Commission, the Judiciary and the Office of the Auditor General.
The Bill also brought several other commissions and agencies that were being funded through the Ministry of Finance under 222 A (Third Schedule) of the Constitution.
The agencies and commissions include the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecution, the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission, the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, the Public Procurement Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Guyana Elections Commission.
It provides for them to now be financially autonomous, and to draw their funds directly from the Consolidated Fund.