House approves $11.2B for constitutional agencies

Minister Juan Edghill presenting the estimates for the 16 constitutional agencies to the National Assembly on Tuesday

The National Assembly has approved a total of $11.2 billion for 16 constitutional agencies for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year.
This was done on Tuesday as business got underway during the first sitting of the 12th Parliament, which is being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
Public Works Minister, Juan Anthony Edghill assumed responsibility for the Finance Minister’s portfolio and tabled the current and capital estimates for these bodies. No Finance Minister has been appointed as yet by the new Administration.
Among the agencies that had their 2020 budgets approved in its entirety for the period ending 31st December 2020, is Parliament Office, which got $1,799,248,000.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) received a whopping $4,943,052,000; while the Supreme Court of Judicature got $2,443,164,000.
Another $908,636,000 was approved for the Office of the Auditor General.
The Chamber of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received $226,822,000, while the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) got $220,802,000 and the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) secured $206,460,000.
The National Assembly further approved a total of $150,636,000 for the Public and Police Service Commissions. The Teaching Service Commission received $117,075,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman got $70,001,000 and the Women and Gender Equality received $58,327,000.
An additional $46,095,000 was approved by the House for the Rights of the Child Commission along with $40,911,000 for the Public Service Appellate Tribunal.
The Human Rights Commission secured $25,958,000; while the Indigenous Peoples Commission got $24,392,000 and the Judicial Service Commission received $10,020,000.
The budgets for these constitutional agencies were approved in the absence of the APNU/AFC Opposition members. They had walked out of the National Assembly sitting following the opening remarks by newly-elected Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir.
In November 2018 when the 2019 national budget – the last since then – was passed, some $11.446 billion was approved after the then coalition Government used its one-seat majority to chop over $1.8 billion from the $13.270 billion total that was requested by the constitutional agencies.
The coalition had cut monies from the estimates submitted by key agencies such as the Auditor General’s Office, GECOM, Supreme Court of Judicature, DPP Chamber, ERC among others.
Then Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, had defended the cuts to the amounts requested by these agencies when questioned by Members of Parliament (MPs) of the then PPP/C Opposition.
For instance, he was asked by MP Irfaan Ali, who is now elected Guyana’s ninth Executive President, whether the reduced sum would be adequate for the Auditor General’s Office given that the country at the time was heading into an oil and gas economy. But Jordan said that the amended amount would not restrict the agency from conducting its duties or maintaining its staff. (G8)