Mr. Nadir: There was one word I found to describe this motion and what the Opposition has been trying to do in the National Assembly, and outside, and that is kerfuffling on this issue of… [Mr. Greenidge: It is “Kerfuffle”.] There are different combinations of it. There is utter confusion being created by synonymously using certain terms and all of our laws, including the Constitution, speak specifically to all of the public moneys. Minister Edghill defined some of those and I do not need to repeat them because there is a Standing Order about reputation. The last speaker and the mover of the motion fell into their trap. I take solace in the presentation of Mr. Jaipaul Sharma because, after I listened to him, it strengthened my resolve to oppose the motion. Why? It is because he quoted two particular articles, articles 216 of the Constitution… [Mr. Sharma: [inaudible]… to speak to the motion.] Hey man, family, pay some respect to family nah.
Article 216 speaks to the Consolidated Fund and article 217 speaks, as he said, to the moneys that are created under Parliament and there is not a cent spent by this Government that is not done by some statute of Parliament. Whether it is the Guyana Forestry Commission, or the GGMC, every single thing is governed by a statute, according to the Constitution. We were told by the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams that we must do things within the law. That is what we were told. I will say it to you tonight, Sir, that that is exactly what this Government has been doing since 1992 - working by the law. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the genesis of the FM&AA had to do with the mismanagement that happened under failed policies and programmes under the People’s National Congress and its failed Ministers of Finance.
No accountability for the gold money – none whatsoever! And I will continue to say that every single cent that we have spent in this House has been governed by an Act of Parliament in full compliance with the constitution of Guyana.
“Kerfuffling” is the word I used. The mover of the motion is using everything synonymously. Extra-budgetary in the context of our laws means one specific thing under section 39 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). It is very specific. That is why there is a special fund created and it goes into elaborate definition and operations and we have attempted to pass one Extra-budgetary Fund in this House since I am here for the last 20 years – one! And it was not assented to. So be careful. In any court of law Mr. Speaker, if you go to the letter and the spirit of the law, you will see only one Extra-budgetary Fund was ever created in this House. When we talk about the funds under the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd. (NICIL), a private company, as Extra-budgetary, that is a particular definition given by a particular person. When we talk about the funds at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and we talk of the funds of the Forestry Commission, they are not Extra-budgetary. They are governed by laws passed by the People’s National Congress in 1979. Section 6, “The Parliament of Guyana which includes the National Assembly and the President...” This was before Mr. Greenidge’s time. We made some slight amendments. But these here set up by Parliament- how GGMC, the Service Commissions- will jealously guard public money. It says here that the Minister of Finance will cause the transfer.
This particular motion speaks to...give me the balance some time in February. You did not read the motion properly Hon. Member and transfer that by 30th June. I am not a lawyer yet. But I have been in this House a long time making laws and I know one thing. No judge will grant any ruling like that.
This motion is so badly grounded that it might cause people to lose the leadership elections in the coming days’ time. These here are Acts of Parliament and I use the word “kerfuffling” because the mover of the motion now takes two funds – they are not Extra-budgetary Funds as defined by section 39 of the FMAA – the Dependent’s Pension Fund and the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund, funds set up from the sweat of workers, not state, and they are governed by particular Acts of Parliament. They are not Extra-budgetary. So the Opposition Members who spoke can define Extra-budgetary how they want. But for us, we look at the public money, that public purse, well defined by the different sections here in this FMAA, and all of them are grounded by rules out of the laws made by this National Assembly and the President. So whether you go to the Constitution, the FMAA, the Forestry Commission, Silwif, Dependent’s Pension Fund or the Forestry Commission, they are all governed by laws. [Mr. Ramjattan: Adhere to them.] We are adhering to them.
The Hon. Member, Mr. Greenidge, said that all the funds – and he was talking here referring to Government money – must come in so we can see this big pie and then we must cut it up back. But the Hon. Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Edghill, said, “Operational nightmare”. We are going to be asked to bring to the National Assembly, the budget of GuySuCo. We are going to be asked to bring to the National Assembly... This is my view and I am entitled to it just as vociferous as other people are entitled to theirs. I am entitled to mine. They do produce their reports here. But could you imagine us going to the ridiculous that this motion goes to and we ask GuySuCo to bring all its receipts and put them in the Consolidated Fund and then we take out back for operations. Look at the operational nightmare. That is why we were told by “Mr. Noseworthy” last Friday that there are oversight committees and in Canada the Consolidated Fund has the Public Accounts Committee. But the crown corporations have a separate committee. They do not bring them all into one big fund. They have two different oversights. They recognise that the companies and the investment portfolio of the state have different oversight. It was not by accident that we have oversight committees, not only the Public Accounts Committee – Economic Services Committee. The Economic Services Committee can bring any budget agency and when we talk about budget agency we have to be very specific because the laws of Guyana define what a budget agency is. Not any agency we want to call a budget agency is a budget agency. It is very specific. We have entities that get subventions.
When we were told in the National Assembly that we did not provide breakdown, the Minister of Local Government was prepared to give the entire breakdown and you, time after time, during the Estimates, have said that every Minister who promised to produce breakdown did so on time – every single Minister! But now this “kerfuffling” is happening; we hear speaker after the other from the Opposition coming up and making wild and confusing claims that the Government is running haywire; that there are billions here there and everywhere. But in my stint here – this is the fifth term I am starting – I have seen reports after reports and audited statements after auditing statements coming here.
The Auditor General, we were told time and time again, said that the lotto funds must go into the Consolidated Fund. The Auditor General speaks to the auditing of the lotto funds and that is what was required. It comes under a specific law of Parliament and there are opinions. I would maintain in this House that the Auditor General’s opinion is a serious opinion for this country. That is why we have a Public Accounts Committee and we have as advisers to that Committee, looking at that public purse, the Auditor General, the Accountant General and the Finance Secretary.
So we have all these reports. It is not a case where there are no reports or audited statements and this Government is running wild. This Government, because of the past record of the People’s National Congress – APNU is a combination - we have moved to put all these checks and balances in place. That is why we did it.
Mr. Greenidge has had a mountain of motions. Somebody told me I should prescribe lomotil. We have had a number of motions and what are these motions trying to do? These motions are trying to create the impression among our people that the National Assembly reigns supreme in this country. While motions of the National Assembly are declaratory – I maintain declaratory – they are not the force of law because section 50 of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana states that Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the President. It did not say that the President must dominate the National Assembly or the National Assembly must dominate the President. And we talk about the country being governed not by motions but by laws – by laws!
There are motions that have good intentions but might be badly framed. This one is badly, badly, badly framed! That is what this one is – very badly framed! I will go through the motion clause by clause. Section 50 of the Constitution provides three sets of authorities. An Executive authority is rested in the President and the Cabinet, the supreme organs of the democratic power, I think... [Mr. Ramjattan: It is Parliament first.] Whether it comes first or second it is checks and balances. The Constitution never said that the National Assembly is the Supreme organ of democratic power. It said Parliament. What these motions, as I said, try to do is to create the impression that the minority of one in the National Assembly is running the country. That is what it is trying to do. [Ms. Ally: Minority?] The majority of one is running the country, and it has the sole power to make all the announcements, pronouncements and the demands. It is tantamount to the tyranny of one. I maintain that that is what it is tantamount to.
Let me speak directly to the motion. Let us go directly to the motion - letter for letter. The first Clause:
“WHEREAS the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 require all revenues accruing to the State to be deposited in the Consolidated Fund;”
Inaccurate! Never said so! It defines what public money is. It defines what Minister Edghill says... [Ms. Selman: Defines.] It defines... [Ms. Selman: Thank you.] ...what Minister Edghill says that the Consolidated Fund is one of the subsets of public moneys. Minister Edghill never mentioned anything about hierarchy or any pyramid. He never mentioned that one is better than the other. It says that the pot shall be filled with all of these moneys. That is what it says. I ask the Hon. Members on the other side, to their own selves be true. How could I support a motion that starts off on a wrong premise?
The Second WHEREAS clause is accurate, but that is just a definition.
But when it comes to these reports, the FMAA only speaks to the Extra-budgetary Funds that are created being provided to the National Assembly with quarterly reports. So when it speaks to submit to the Minister of Finance and publish for general information quarterly reports, this is my understanding of what the mover of the motion said. To me he created the impression that every single cent in every statutory agency, in every Extra-budgetary Fund, should present quarterly reports here. The FMAA does not require that. All of our Acts of Parliament require that we submit annual reports to the House which will include audited statements of accounts.
The regular reports by the Auditor General and the Audit Office of the failure of many such entities to meet their legal obligations the Minister of Finance has routinely failed to enforce the law in these cases…”
Well I have served under two Ministers of Finance in the Cabinet and I can say from the inside that I have not seen any Minister of Finance who has said that he is not going to obey the reports… [Mr. Greenidge: How did Queen’s Atlantic get concessions?] “Kerfuffling” makes one move from dealing with Extra-budget agencies to duty free concessions.
I go to the RESOLVED clause… [Mr. Greenidge: You are talking about breaking the law.] Which law? There is no law breaking and I would like any Member of the Opposition to bring the Act of the Forestry Commission and the GGMC and the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) and every other statutory agency, not budget agency, agencies that are created by Acts of Parliament, and show me that the laws require that we produce quarterly reports.
Good management within organisations even say that internal reports must be produced that are weekly and there are monthly meetings. And at the end of the year, the audited statement of accounts is produced. That is what we have been bringing here.
The final RESOLVED clause speaks to the issue of:
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That the relevant Minister/s ensure that all agencies authorised to have Extra-Budgetary Funds…”
That has to be changed…
“…under the Act…”
Here he is speaking only to the FMAA. It is only one Act we are talking about in this. But it should read that, “authorised that all statutory agencies, as per their legislation, ensure that they bring their audited annual reports to the House.” This is the highest deliberative forum of the land and if we cannot be accurate in this land, how will we expect people to follow us accurately?
The mover of the motion is now using a castanet to capture every single agency that has been created by every single law in this country and he is saying that balance your books. As of the 14th February, balance your books and whatever remains in the balance, by the 30th June, you must deposit that, which is three days from now. It does not even speak towards retaining sufficient resources to run the operations of the entity beyond that time. But it calls for a specific thing. It calls for the balances at 14th February to be deposited.
This particular motion is bad. I use the words “very, very, very, very bad”. And I say that it is more political, to create the impression that the Government of Guyana, this PPP/C Government cannot do anything at all, and perhaps even more to tie the hands of the Government behind its back and tell them to go and do the job of serving the people of this nation.
We are going to have to examine how these motions are coming. We heard about the spirit of consensus and reaching out across the aisle. And I know that there have been engagements. I do not know the inner workings and the inner discussions there, but clearly what we have been seeing happening with these motions is not testimony to what the people of Guyana voted for. We heard of that lecture from the Opposition over and over again.
This particular motion is so badly drawn and so wrongly rooted, I find it extremely difficult to give my support to it. Thank you very much. [Applause]