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Former Public Accounts Committee chair commits to “right way” to pass supplementary budgets

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Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2020. 10:44 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives, and now Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing, Julius Espat, says they will not become what they abhorred in the previous administration.

The new Government had sought to pass supplementary budgets in the House when it would have met tomorrow, Friday, but legally they have three months from the first meeting to do so.

Those budgets would fund urgent COVID relief programs and repairs to infrastructure. Previous administrations have simply spent first from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and approved later, but the Supreme Court under former Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin frowned on that in a suit brought by Espat and then-Leader of the Opposition John Briceno against then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow; the judgment was not reduced to writing.

Espat told Channel 7 News: “The laws under the Finance and Audit gives you three months to be able to legally submit a supplementary. We tried to do it within a month and I think we’re 99% there, the COVID situation made it a bit difficult to assemble in the house, the Speaker of the House and the National Assembly is trying to find a more adequate way of us following the rules and protocols of COVID but the decision was made also based on the fact that we’re within the three months if we do it in January, we were elected on the 11th of November but the government really doesn’t start until the day we are sworn into parliament so we have three months within the law to be able to do a supplementary.”

The House is expected to meet in the New Year once the National Assembly Building is COVID-proofed.

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