The misuse of the nation’s Contingencies Fund has always been a bone of contention for Auditor General, Deodat Sharma. But today, the financial officer was pleased to report that there were no instances of abuse for 2017. He said that this is reflected in his annual report which was handed over to Parliament last week.
The Guyana Standard also enquired if the Auditor General and the Ministry of Finance have been able to put to rest, their disagreement over what actually constitutes the “abuse” of the Contingency’s Fund.
Sharma said, “To some extent, you can say we have. We have our views at the Audit office and those at the Ministry of Finance have theirs. But I maintain, there are clear conditions for the use of the Contingencies Fund. It must be urgent, it must be unforeseen, cannot be postponed without jeopardizing the public interest, and no other provision has been made for it before.”
The Auditor General added, “Those things have to be fulfilled for me. Now you cannot come later on and say to me that you had to buy this vehicle or other item and so the money had to be taken from the Contingencies Fund. If you were doing proper budgeting you are supposed to know that and plan for it.”
Sharma said that Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has assured him that moves will be made to ensure that “tighter budgeting is done.”
For years, the Ministry of Finance has disagreed with the office of the Auditor General when it comes to instances of abuse of the Contingencies Fund. Jordan has said from the inception that the Constitution deems the Minister as the sole individual who will determine the emergency for which he can dip his hand into the Contingencies Fund.
“In this, he does not have to consult with the Auditor General. Being a member of Cabinet, he consults with the Members of Cabinet…Whether the AG wishes to determine what I have done, whether it was an emergency or not, that is his interpretation. It doesn’t count under the law,” the Finance Minister had said on several occasions.