Transparency, accountability agencies under attack – Jagdeo

first_imgOpposition Leader 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.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoHe was referring specifically to cuts to the Auditor General’s Office and the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) budget proposals. Last month, it was reported that Government cut almost $2 billion from the budgets, amounting to a total of $13.2 billion, 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.According to the Opposition Leader, 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.Jagdeo went on to criticise these cuts, pointing out that they could have otherwise been made on areas where there are unnecessary spending of billions of dollars, such as dietary which has increased by $1.6 billion and domestic travels which has gone up to some $750 million annually.“Those things are increasing but they are cutting $100 million from the budget from the PPC and so on… So this is what we argue, you do have resources but it’s allocated based on this Government’s priority. They’re fat-fowling themselves and everything else suffers [and] languishes,” the Opposition Leader asserted.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 submission.JustificationAs such, Finance Minister Winston Jordan explained at a press conference on Wednesday that these 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.“The Constitution gives the power of that to the Minister of Finance not a constitutional agency… Almost always these budgets are wish lists. When you look at some of the budgets and you know the circumstances of Guyana with its absence of critical skills, the absence of critical resources… if you were to put together a decent procurement plan many of the projects they claim they would like to do would never get done,” the Finance Minister said.However, Jagdeo, at his weekly press conference on Thursday, reiterated concerns they would have raised about the Opposition being able to fully debate the allocations to these agencies if the Finance Minister is allowed to cut their submissions.“Government [had] said “no, you cannot do that” and they agreed last year that you can only ask questions pertaining to the submissions. You can’t question policies, you can’t make a speech about the sectors, about what is happening in these sectors and the constitutional bodies, etc. And then, they set aside 20 minutes per agency but low and behold [Wednesday], they convened one of these committee meetings and they decided now to reduce the time for consideration of the estimates for these constitutional bodies to 10 minutes per agency so we will have just over two hours to consider the budget for all 16 constitutional agencies in Guyana without having the ability to debate those submissions,” he explained.According to the Opposition Leader, there is a surreptitious and quiet move to infringe on people’s rights to know and infringe on the rights and mandate of MPs to scrutinise expenditures and be the watchdog of the people.“…Most people take it lightly, but we take it seriously in the People’s Progressive Party. This is a process and unfortunately, the speaker aids this process of infringing on the rights of the Members of Parliament who are elected by the people to look out for their interests, to look out for the budgets and all the policy issues, now they can’t even speak on this,” Jagdeo said.last_img read more

McPhee clears latest ‘Idol’ hurdle

first_imgSherman Oaks vocalist Katharine McPhee inched closer to the “Idol” title Wednesday, remaining on the show while another hopeful was sent packing. The contestant who was bounced, Melissa McGhee, 21, forgot the words to her song on Tuesday’s “American Idol,” which was devoted to the music of Stevie Wonder. The votes came in the following day with McGhee becoming the first of the final dozen contestants to be voted off the top-rated Fox show. The judging panel’s resident meanie, Simon Cowell, praised the Tampa, Fla., native nonetheless, calling her “edgy” and “strong.” McGhee expected the setback. When host Ryan Seacrest asked whether she thought she’d get the boot, she simply said, “Yeah.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 Escaping the elimination round were Ace Young and Lisa Tucker, who had the next-lowest vote tallies. Tucker, a 16-year-old velvet-voiced crooner, had wowed judges Tuesday with her rousing rendition of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Young drew sympathy from increasingly emotional judge Paula Abdul, who shook her head about the vote count, saying, “I don’t get it.” The 25-year-old Denver native had performed Wonder’s “Do I Do” and listened as Cowell called his performance “manic.” Meanwhile, McPhee appears to be back in full swing, according to Las Vegas bookies, after some less impressive weeks that saw her odds dwindle. The singer, who attended Notre Dame High School, is listed at 10,000-to-1 odds of being eliminated. This week’s show also featured a performance by Wonder, who sang his recent song “My Love Is on Fire.” Now in its fifth season, “American Idol” is still a ratings bonanza, pulling in between 25 million and 30-plus million viewers per telecast this year. The final 12 contestants, along with 12 others who made it to the elimination rounds, were chosen by judges Cowell, Abdul and Randy Jackson from thousands of aspiring singers at casting calls around the country. The final “Idol” will be named May 24. Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676 and [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more