Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2019. 3:38 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The fate of over a billion dollars rests with the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, who yesterday presided over a short adjournment of a case at the Supreme Court.
Opposition Leader John Briceño and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat filed suit a few weeks ago challenging the supplementary appropriations bills that the Barrow Administration has been passing in parliament during its 3 terms in elected office.
Some 22 bills covering spending of up to $1.3 billion were passed since 2008, of which the former Said Musa administration was responsible for three.
Of the remainder, about eight covered spending under the Petrocaribe Program, but none of it was budgeted for in the consolidated revenue fund, and many were passed to seek parliamentary approval long after the monies were actually spent.
After making a complaint to no avail inside the National Assembly, Briceno and Espat are asking the court to declare whether it is constitutional to retrospectively appropriate funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, according to attorney for the claimants, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck.
Marshalleck argues that “You need to get approval before you spend. You don’t spend, and come back a year later and say, last year, I spent an extra 40 [million dollar] can you approve that now? It doesn’t work. It must be prospective.”
The Government has filed its defense which Marshalleck needs time to review and so the case comes back to court on May 13.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte opined that in regards to the retrospectivity, that it is covered under Section 81 (4) of the Constitution and applies to all civil laws but not criminal ones.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon he said, “you may not know what you need to do until you do it and so after you have done it, the law allows you then to pass a law to correct or to normalize what you have done.”
If the court disagrees, a permanent injunction is sought restraining this and any future Prime Minister and the Financial Secretary from embarking on that type of spending in the future said Marshalleck.
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