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Third time is not the charm for Government’s $70 million supplementary allocation

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Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2022. 5:51 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government side of the Senate found itself having to defend, to some, the indefensible – $70.35 million in additional spending outside of the 2021-22 Budget, a month or so before the 2022-23 one is prepared and read.

And the criticisms laid in the Senate are much the same as those heard in the House of Representatives last week – lack of critical data, misplaced priorities, and a sort of tone-deafness, if not hypocrisy, on the part of the current administration.

Leader of Government Business, Senator Eamon Courtenay, reminded that sections 114 to 117 of the Constitution speaks to the way public finances are to be dealt with, and set out at some length the headings and sub-headings for each appropriation – monies for purchase of needed pharmaceuticals in the Ministry of Health (including payments outstanding for prior purchases); monies to repair police stations and buy equipment; money to continue running the Central Prison at Hattieville under the Kolbe Foundation.

But no amount of dancing around, his opposite number Michael Peyrefitte replied, could mask what he referred to as an administration out of ideas and vision and borrowing to pour monies down the well to a favored few. Charging the current administration with hypocrisy and even “one last hustle before the next budget is read,” Peyrefitte warned, “And if they wah come with scratch records, then the music have to scratch. Because, if you show no creativity and no new ways of growing the economy like the current Prime Minister criticized the previous Prime Minister for not doing, then you are going to hear the same thing as well.”

Coming under particular attack from, especially, Senator for the Trade Unions and Civil Society Elena Smith and Peyrefitte, is the near 300 thousand dollars allocated for repair of the Cabinet Room and Prime Minister’s office, which Courtenay later said included fixing a leaking roof and enlarging the room to safely accommodate all of the Executive, socially distanced, which it currently could not do.

Smith said it does not send a consistent signal to those patiently waiting for their hard-earned monies to be returned to them: “You can’t tell me that I must sacrifice while others are gaining, and we are all working. We are suffering, we are punishing. Some of our colleagues can barely meet their bills, barely provide for their families, yet we see these things coming before us. My colleague spoke about gas prices going up, food prices as well. With all my sacrifices, I am not seeing anything coming back, at least not yet. … What am I left to think if we don’t have all the details?”

Courtenay concluded that the Government will introduce a system for the Senate to review appropriation bills as a Committee, but also that there had been no allegation of misappropriation and mishandling, and spending remains controlled by public officers.

The supplementary appropriation bill was approved without the need for a division as initially asked for by Peyrefitte.

 

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