I don’t want to accuse the government of mismanagement or lack of foresight, but I am inclined to…
Those were the words declared in the Upper House of Parliament by Opposition Senator Neilon Franklyn in his contribution to the debate on the controversial Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023, for a new supplemental budget of EC$148,990,234.00 to service the State of Grenada for the fiscal year January 01st to December 31st, 2023.
The Bill was approved by both Houses of Parliament without support from Opposition members, who cited a lack of information in the explanatory notes for the new allocations, in addition to the EC$1,350,465,246, approved in Parliament last December.
The new budget provides for EC$133,430,832.00 in Capital expenditure, while EC$15,559,402 is for Recurrent expenditure, which was not provided for in the 2023 Budget.
“This (NDC) administration boasted about meeting a lot of money in the Treasury right after they asked for $EC190 plus million, Sen. Franklyn recalled, taking issue that “after the best budget quote on quote…for 2023, over $EC1 billion, you see now supplementary appropriation for over $148 million.”
He expanded on his argument by pointing to significant savings outlined in the Mid-year report, which was prepared by the government.
“The Mid-Year report shows that under Recurrent expenditure there are two (2) line items where the government intends to save or spend less than what was budgeted for, goods and services 9.6% or $15 million, and under interest payments 3.4% savings or $2.1 million, which is a total of $17.1 million,” Sen. Franklyn told the Upper House.
“The savings is more – why not utilise the savings? Why ask taxpayers for an additional $15.55 million when you have $17.1 million in savings? If this is not evidence of gross mismanagement, nothing else is,” said the Opposition Senator.
He noted that the former New National Party (NNP) administration during one of the most difficult periods of the country’s history of COVID-19, never asked for a supplementary appropriation of over $70 million (to manage the country’s affairs).
“On the capital side of the budget, this administration is asking for EC$133.43 million, the budgeted amount for capital expenditure 2023, $313.9 million, and I am looking at the Mid-year report…the estimated outturn is EC$291.7 million, a savings of 7.1% or EC$22. 2 million.
Why ask for EC$133.43 million when you could ask for EC$111.22 million… (and) we hear zero explanation from the Leader of Government business as it relates to the justification for the EC$15.55 million or the EC$133.43 million, when you have significant savings.”
Among the uses identified for spending according to the Minutes of the Finance Committee meeting on August 18, are the purchasing of land, vehicles, software for government ministries or departments, subvention for statutory bodies, as well as assistance to an educational non-governmental organisation to assist students with tuition fees.
During his contribution to the debate on the Bill, which was approved in the Lower House of Parliament last week Friday, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell said, that while the allocation requested in some areas is understandable, he has not seen nor was he provided with enough explanation that will satisfy justification for the additional money.
However, when the Bill was debated in the Upper House on Tuesday, the Leader of Government Business noted that the funds are necessary to continue pushing the government’s transformational agenda for the country.