… as Education Dept under MotP raises eyebrows in Parliament
The creation of a Department of Innovation and Education reform under the aegis of the Ministry of the Presidency raised eyebrows on Friday in the National Assembly, as Opposition parliamentarians were unable to determine what the Government was requesting money for.
The matter was raised as parliamentarians considered the First Financial Paper for 2017 for in excess of $6.3 billion, including several allocations for the establishment of that department.
Opposition members took umbrage to being asked to vote in approval for amounts for this department, especially in light of the fact that nothing was known about the unit.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon, in providing answers for the Opposition on the Ministry of the Presidency unit informed that it was borne out of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the state of the education system in Guyana.
Harmon told the House, the unit is expected to address, in a parallel fashion, the challenge of promoting learning in an equitable way as well as potential for modern approach in addition to reaching the needs of the underserved.
Former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, questioned the competency of the leadership of the Education Ministry under Minister Nicolette Henry and questioned whether that Ministry was unable to execute the terms being read out for the new department.
Manickchand reminded the House that her colleagues were being asked to vote for sums of money for a unit that came out of recommendations from a CoI.
She questioned whether Government had any plans to make the findings of the CoI public and was told it would be made available as soon as practical.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan had presented the financial paper for 2017 for a period outlined between January 1 and December 31, 2017.
Among the beneficiaries of the largesse supplementary provisions from the national coffers is the Public Infrastructure Ministry.
While some of the provisions represent inflows from foreign funded projects in excess of $1.4 billion was requested from the National Coffers in order to meet expenditure related to the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at $300 million, a final payment on the rehabilitation of the MV Lady Northcote in
addition to monies “to meet the increased cost of vehicle.”
Other projects for which Government requested additional monies is the construction of Highway overpasses to be constructed at Houston, Eccles, Peters’ Hall, Diamond and Providence East Bank Demerara.
According to the Financial Paper, “this supplemental request is premised on the fact that the Government has successfully completed negotiations with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to utilise uncommitted balances that would have been cancelled as at March 31, 2017… The final disbursement date has consequently been revised to December 31, 2017.
Another $160 million has since been approved for the repairs to the sinkhole project in the vicinity of the Kitty Pump station.
Other projects to benefit from the approved allocations include several of the large road repairs and construction and the upgrade of the Power grid at almost $2 billion.
It was explained in the Financial Paper that the provision represent an inflow from the IDB to facilitate the payment of mobilisation advance and other areas under the programme including the supervision of civil works and management of the project.
The bond and advances were supposed to have been paid in 2016, according to the Finance Minister, but this did not obtain.