“Basket cannot fetch water!” – Constitutional body decries budget cuts

first_imgThe recent slashes to constitutional agencies have left some of these agencies questioning their work mandate and how the cuts would affect their mandate.A representative of both the Women and Gender Equality Commission and the Rights of the Child Commission believes the cuts will have repercussions.According to noted social activist Nicole Cole, much work remains to be done by these two commissions, including physical outreaches to at-risk communities. She expressed fear that the work of the two commissions, which requested a combined total of close to 0 million but received million, would be hindered.“There are still many communities that need to be visited to ascertain the socioeconomic conditions affecting persons, hence cuts to the budget can and will curtail the Commissions’ ability to effectively reach those persons in dire need of our services,” she said in an interview with this publication.Giving an example, Cole said Region Nine is Guyana’s largest geographical area, and visits are many times concentrated only in Lethem; “but there are the Maurudi Mountains (which) is a neglected area, as well as Siparuta, Monkey Mountain and other hinterland areas that are woefully underserved. What we need are more finances to effectively execute our constitutional mandate, because basket cannot fetch water,” she declared.According to Cole, journeying into hinterland regions is costly because of the geographical locations and terrains. She noted that this should have been a guiding consideration when the Budget cuts were being contemplated.“The commissions need a Jeep that can effectively traverse those difficult terrains. Our bus got stuck in the sand twice going to St. Cuthbert’s Mission (now renamed Pakuri). We need a stronger vehicle, the bus (isn’t) built for that terrain. There are coastal areas that we also need to visit, so we need every dime. More money will effectively give us more spending power to conduct more outreaches,” she said.On Friday, a total of billion in estimates from 16 constitutional agencies was approved for the 2018 Budget in the National Assembly. This includes Capital and Current Expenditure.But all proposed cuts were sustained, with Finance Minister Winston Jordan being asked in the house whether he was marginalising women, even as the proposals from the Women and Gender Equality Commission and the Rights of the Child Commission were being slashed.The slashed proposals from the Office of the Ombudsman, Indigenous People’s Commission, and the Public Procurement Commission were also passed by the House.The recent multimillion-dollar cuts by the Finance Ministry to the budget proposals put forward by these constitutional agencies had not gone down well with the parliamentary Opposition. The Opposition had, for some time, called for the autonomy of these agencies to be respected by the Government.According to the 2018 annual budget proposals of constitutional agencies which were tabled in Parliament last week, the Audit Office’s request for 4.4 million was slashed to a proposal of 3.8 million. In slashing the amount, it was noted that Budget 2018’s submission did not fulfil certain requirements set out in a budget circular.The need has been expressed for the Audit Office to be in its strongest possible position when it comes to its audit capacity. This is especially so as Guyana gets ready to enter oil production. In addition, Auditor General Deodat Sharma has already expressed intentions to audit Guyana’s environmental protection systems.Other agencies on the chopping block for 2018 are the Parliament Office, the GECOM, the Supreme Court of Judicature (request of .7 billion was reduced to .8 billion), the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecution’s request for 3.8 million was reduced to 4.2 million), and the Office of the Ombudsman.last_img