Communities Ministry lacks legal authority to manage LGC’s finances – former AG
Blow to democracy
The Communities Ministry has no legal authority to manage any financial affairs of the Local Government Commission, judging from the Local Government Commission Act which provides for the agency to manage its own finances once approved by the National Assembly.
This was the position shared by former Attorney General and Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall after senior officials from the Commission informed that payments for salaries and other dues were delayed after Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Emil McGarrell refused to countersign pertinent documents.
Nandlall said on his social media page that such efforts are regarded as a “naked interference” in the operations of the constitutional body.
“This Commission, by the express language of the Local Government Commission Act, is empowered to manage its own finances as approved by the National Assembly. The Ministry of Local Government has no legal authority whatsoever to manage or exercise any supervisory role over the financial affairs of this Commission. Any attempt to do so constitutes a naked interference with the functioning of an independent constitutional Commission.”
He mentioned that the refusal to release money to the LGC is considered another manifestation of authoritarianism on the part of the coalition Government.
“The democratic tapestry of Guyana’s constitutional democracy is quickly being unravelled by the brazen authoritarianism being displayed by this Government. The refusal to release money to the Local Government Commission is but yet another manifestation of this authoritarianism,” Nandlall stated.
According to the attorney, the Commission was created in accordance with Article 78A of Guyana’s Constitution and the Local Government Commission Act. One of the main functions was to ensure that the Communities Minister act within his capacities. However, a move to cash-starve the constitutional body could mean that the agency may lose its capacity to operate independently.
“An examination of both the genesis and the nature of the functional responsibilities of this Commission drives one to the inescapable conclusion that it is an independent Body that is statutorily and constitutionally autonomous. Its fiscal autonomy is obviously an indispensable component of its overarching independence. One of its functions is to ensure that the Minister with responsibility for Local Government does not exceed or abuse his authority and mandate. If this Commission becomes beholden to this Ministry for its financial sustenance, then it loses its independence absolutely,” the attorney asserted.
Chairman of the Commission, Mortimer Mingo and other Commissioners told media operatives on Friday that it has been two months since salaries and utilities were paid, resulting in the disconnection of their cellular services.
He used the platform to state that the agency has exhausted all avenues to address the matter. According to him, the Commission submitted a budget on December 14, 2018, which was later approved by Parliament.
However, when the expense record was submitted on January 14, 2019, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Emil McGarell, said that the 2019 budget for salaries was not in agreement with that of public service workers, hence he would not sign-off for payments.
As such, the LGC opted to settle the matter through a meeting with McGarell on January 28 but the Permanent Secretary did not withdraw his decision of not signing the documents.
He stressed that these salaries were effective since last July and no objections were made by the Finance Ministry prior to this letter.
Letter to President
Their last resort is to wait for President David Ganger to intervene since he was in receipt of a letter which highlighted the problem. The Chairman said that they are waiting for a few days to see what will be done.
“We have written to the Head of State seeking his intervention. He would have responded to us and we are going to see what level of intervention he would have made over the next couple of days,” Mingo said.
Commissioner Clement Corlette had clearly stated that this act is viewed as a way of stymieing the operations of the organisation. He raised the idea that the Commission was eliminating anomalies at local organs and this did not do well with the Ministry
“We have been making prudent intervention into correcting the anomalies where it exist in the local Government system. That Ministry that was first tasked with that responsibility apparently is not too happy with the progress we’re making so they set out to stymie it,” Corlette ascertained.