– Finance Ministry says January funds still unspent
Chairman of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), Renis Morian, is appealing with the Finance Ministry to release budgeted finances to the region.
The Regional Chairman, in statement from the region on Wednesday, expressed disappointment that almost at the end of February 2019 they have not received the parliamentary approved funding, under the region’s new programme of agriculture.
In the 2019 Budget, Government allocated $28,992,000 under the new agriculture programme in an effort to promote agricultural development in the region.
According to Morian, the region went ahead and hired a few persons who are highly qualified and experienced in the sector, as they seek to move away from mining to agriculture. However to date, they have not received any releases as yet.
“I am very concerned as to date we have not received any releases from the Ministry of Finance with regards to funding for agriculture. We have put everything in place and is ready to move forward but to date we have not been able to move ahead because despite trying to access the monies we have been unable to. Our REOs have tried numerous times and to date it’s holding up the work,” the Regional Chairman said.
However, in a statement on Wednesday, the Finance Ministry expressed its disappointment with the pronouncements, when in fact the region has not spent its disbursements in January.
According to the Ministry, it conducts ‘other charges’ release within the first five working days of every month. However, the Region 10 RDC submitted their cash flow statement on January 12, 2019 and the first release of $1,211,833 was done on January 14, 2019.
In addition, the Ministry noted that another $1,665,833 was released on February 5, 2019 to cover costs according to the cash flow submitted.
However, before releasing the funds for February, the Finance Ministry said it noticed the entire release for January 2019 was unspent at the end of that month, and contact was made with the Principal Assistant Finance Secretary at the RDC, Dollette Powers, in the first week of February to enquire about the unspent releases.
“In response, Powers said the region was not ready to start spending under the agriculture programme and that spending should start from February 2019 since some tenders were sent out,” the Ministry explained.
But Morian noted in the missive from the region that the continued holding up of the finances can result in the region losing its momentum, as farmers and other resources have already been motivated and with no release of the required funds, it places the region’s officials at an embarrassing state. In fact, the Chairman noted that they had gone to lengths and extent in mobilising and motivating farmers to get on board.
“We have a lot of farmers who are ready and prepared to get started but we still can’t access the funding and this is stymieing our programme. We are therefore appealing to all the powers that be, that we are working towards food security and if we’re going to bring down the amount of food importation and given the kind of weather that we have right now and time, we need the funding now. I am stating that whatever is the glitch we are asking that it be overridden by some official so that we can get over this glitch, thus allowing us access to the monies,” he stressed.
Morian said that mining is like a navel string for Region 10, stressing that the people of Linden has been into mining for decades and seeking to remove them from mining towards agriculture has taken a lot of effort and resources, therefore the Ministry of Finance needs to address this matter urgently.
“We’re seeing persons emerging who are willing to get into agriculture with our help and support and we just don’t want to lose this momentum, it’s clear that if we dilly dally these persons would view us as just making promises and starting something that we never had any intention of fulfilling,” Morian said.
He added, “Apart from that, our credibility is certainly at stake because we went out onto the ground and only to tell persons that we can’t access the monies and the farmers who are on the ground would not understand why we can’t access the money and I find it difficult too, but the system is stymieing the Government’s s attempt to move agriculture in Region 10 and I will stress that this is hard for me to face yet another RDC meeting which will be held on March 7th to say the same thing.”
The evidently frustrated RC said that whatever is discussed at the RDC it is discussed throughout the region, thus he would like the Government to immediately address the hiccup within the Ministry of Finance, so as to ensure that the region and ultimately farmers can access the monies in moving agriculture forward. He declared that the current situation that they are confronted with is very tough, noting that he has no intention of returning to the RDC, taking the same report.
“I’m appealing to have this matter urgently addressed before the first Thursday in March as I would like the system to be freed up so that we can access this money as we have been getting ready all the time and we now needs the money,” he declared.