Public finances

It is quite ironic that some of the same accusations that are currently being levelled against the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government are the same ones those parties made against the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) while they (APNU/AFC) were in Opposition. It, therefore, begs the question: why is it that when a party wins political power, it conveniently becomes blind, or ignores the concerns of ordinary citizens. The APNU/AFC saw many things wrong during the PPP/C’s tenure in office, but now that they were given a chance to govern and to correct all these “wrongs”, they are proving to be a disappointment.
Over the past recent weeks, the APNU/AFC Government has come under severe fire for its extravagant spending on certain events. And to make matters worse, the Administration has not been forthcoming at all on the details of these expenses; for example, the source of funding, the amount, justification of the expenditures, and what returns or benefits such expenditures would bring to the country taking into consideration the trying economic times we are currently experiencing.
In fact, several politicians from the opposite side, NGOs and even ordinary citizens have been voicing their concerns through various mediums for the Government to be more open and transparent when it comes to spending public money. The perception being created, justifiable or not, is that the Government does not feel that it has an obligation to be accountable to the people.
It could be recalled that it was the APNU/AFC coalition while on the campaign trail which blasted the PPP/C on numerous occasions for being corrupt and secretive in its management of the country’s financial resources. The coalition had promised that this would be a thing of the past, and if it was to form the next government, it would be open, transparent, and responsible in the way the affairs of the country were managed.
Journalists have been asking the relevant questions at various press conferences to get official explanations in terms of excessive spending by public officials, but more often than not, confusing answers are provided, which give rise to the perception that the Administration is merely bluffing when it says that its governance style is “different” from the previous Government’s.
As if there is no need to give account for taxpayers’ dollars, officials just simply dismiss certain queries, or the answers supplied do not address the questions directly. Recently, out of the 2018 Budget, the Office of the Prime Minister has spent millions of dollars on constitutional reform. However, observers are questioning what exactly this allocation was used for, as there seems to be little to no movement on an issue the coalition partly based its 2015 campaign on.
Questions were posed to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo by the parliamentary Opposition and those questions sought to find out how much of the $109.2 million allocated to the Prime Minister’s secretariat under the sub-heading ‘other’ was spent.
In his response, Nagamootoo revealed that $21.4 million of the amount has been spent as of August 2018. Of this amount, $5 million went towards constitutional reform “activities”. Apart from this, $5.5 million was spent on launching regional radios at Aishalton, Bartica, and Orealla. Some of the money also went towards training the radio personnel and Nagamootoo’s “outreach activities”.
Some $4.6 million was spent on a supervisory consultancy for the regional radio project, while $1.2 million was spent on information technology and web services and $1.6 million on events and functions. In addition, another $1.4 million was spent on repairs to furniture at the official residence, office and carpets. The remaining amount, according to the Prime Minister, was spent on expenses like “cellphones and work- study students’ stipends”. But no exact details were given as to the “other”.
This is happening against the backdrop of poor economic performance over the three years.
We believe that if the Government is really serious about inclusive and transparent governance, as promised during the election campaign, it would serve it well by being more open and forthright about the manner in which it manages the affairs of the State, especially when it comes to public finances.