The People’s United Party PUP is taking the Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight to court for illegal spending. This week the Leader of the Opposition John Briceno and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat filed a lawsuit. They say that government has been spending illegally as they have passed many General Revenue Supplementary Appropriations that they say amounts to one point three billion dollars to date. The PUP says this has been done repeatedly without approval from the parliament and in breach of the Finance and Audit Reform Act. Julius Espat says they are seeking a permanent injunction that states that the Prime Minister cannot use supplementary allocations if it is not first brought before the House of Representatives.
Julius Espat Chairman, P.A.C.: “It is a constitutional claim and we believe that the Prime Minister has been breaching the Constitution, the Finance and Audit Reform Act since he became Prime Minister by issuing supplementary allocations in the House for money that he has spent previously. The constitution does not allow it and more specifically the Finance and Audit Reform Act does not allow it. The Finance and Audit Reform Act says that you prepare a budget, you submit your budget and you are allowed an overrun of your budget of approximately ten percent or $500,000. There are situations where you can spend more and it is categorized under emergency and we have seen that he continuously uses the supplementary allocations in the house since I was elected in 2012. I have noticed it but we have found out that it has been done before since 2008. This is a subsequent claim to the one they did in 2014 with the PETROCARIBE funds where the Prime Minister acknowledged his error and instead of mitigating his way out of the problem he legislated his way out of the problem but we believe that even in legislating his way out of problems it is not correct and so that also falls within the claim that you cannot retrospectively correct something that was done before.”
Espat says they have chosen to file the claim since GOB continuously ignores the Finance and Audit Reform Act and especially since they are now preparing for the 2019 budget presentation and debate.
Julius Espat Chairman, P.A.C.: “In the year 2012 and 2013 as was noted in the Auditor General’s report it was like $96 million. It goes into detail and in that specific report where the Auditor General stated that a warrant was not issued in the House. In fact for that year they didn’t even come to the House and that is even worse. It was acknowledged by the financial secretary that that is a fact. Subsequent to that the Senate had a hearing with the monies spent for supplementary as well and the Financial Secretary was questioned in the Senate. He also agreed that this has been continuously occurring and in the claim the attorneys are saying that even his body language and the way he responds to it was like “ it was just daily rounds, its cool, it alright, it’s how we do things” and so that…. But it is not cool, it is not right, it is not lawful and we are saying that we don’t want this Prime Minister to be doing it and we don’t want any future Prime Minister to do it. That is why we decided that it was important that we have the judiciary decide so that president can be set so that they do a proper job of presenting the budget.”
Reporter: “Do you truly believe that an injunction is necessary?”
Julius Espat Chairman, P.A.C.: “Of course it is because the Prime Minister is not listening to anybody. “
Espat says the PUP is willing to take the case to the CCJ if it becomes necessary.