Government officials have been visiting several communities in Guyana via an initiative dubbed by its media machinery as “Bringing Government to the people”, which has since placed the administration at the receiving end of opposition-launched allegations.
The latest was made by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, who seems convinced that the programme is merely a guise for political campaigning being that elections are in the air.
Jagdeo argued that the government is in caretaker-mode and should not be racking up airfares. He posited that the only duty the government should burden itself with is to hold office until the culmination of elections and the swearing in of a new president and government.
The politician even threatened to go after pubic officials for reimbursement should his party, the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), emerge victorious at the upcoming polls.
However, Director-General (DG) of the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), Joseph Harmon, is contending that these activities were catered for in the 2019 National Budget, and are not extra-budgetary expenses.
“The cost associated with these outreaches are part of our budget…These expenses are budgeted expenses,” he told the media during the post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday at the MOTP’s Media Centre.
Asked where the information can be garnered from in the 2019 Budget estimates, Harmon responded: “You will find it in all of the ministries.” However, he could not pinpoint which line item in the estimates speaks to ministerial outreach.
In the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan’s 2019 Budget Speech, the word “outreaches” was mentioned once, and this was regarding the funding of activities under the Ministry of Social Cohesion.
“…We have budgeted over $480 million for the Department of Social Cohesion to conduct outreaches and events, including social cohesion week, harmony village and inter-village activities,” Jordan had reported to the house.
The Budget Estimates for 2019 published on the Ministry of Finance’s website, are in three volumes. In volume One, “outreach” appears seven times but relates to Outreach Officers and Outreach Workers who were referenced in a list of approved positions under Ministries/Departments/Regions.
In Volume Two, “outreach” is recorded six times in the Programme Performance Statements but it has no specific reference to ministerial outreach. Meanwhile, in Volume Three, the word “outreach” is not even mentioned once.
Other keywords such as “visit” and “engagement” also yielded nought.
The Guyana Standard has since made efforts to ascertain whether these activities have been recorded under another description, however, efforts to contact Harmon were proven futile.