(Excerpts of Major Leacock’s presentation during debate of the Supplementary Estimate)
Special Warrants as defined by the Finance Act speaks to matters that are unforeseen by and large, we couldn’t see it coming, we were caught unaware, we did not put anything aside for that particular financial transaction but the urgency of the moment requires that we attend to that situation.
This supplementary debate means, we are speaking fundamentally over spilled milk. Nothing that I say or anyone else say this morning can change what has been done, it’s finished, accomplished, whether it was done right or wrong, it’s almost of no consequence at the moment. What I can say, is that we are happy that they are here before us this morning and we can give a pass mark for that. Just as we do not forget that it was in this very House that we had to bring it to their attention that they have spent over $ 100 million without the authority of this House. And, that successive Directors of Audit had not been amused by that reckless and irresponsible conduct of government with respect to the people’s money. A pass mark must not be construed to mean that this represents final accountability for that activity.
For now, it represents in my mind and I believe other colleagues will share it on this side, good faith. Because we will only know of the veracity or the accuracy of what has been presented here this morning five years from now, when the Director of Audit pronounces on those reports, five years from now. It’s an opportune time for me to make the call to the Honourable Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance and his cabinet and his colleagues that there needs to be like yesterday an urgent decision by the government of St. Vincent and Grenadines to be audited within its terms of office.
The government that was in office from 2015 to 2020 was not audited, so too was the government from 2010 to 2015, and the government from 2005 to 2010 and the government from 2001 to 2005. In other words, this government or successive governments have never, ever audited within their period of stewardship. When that is done, it will be for an administration that is long gone.
This is the 2015 Audit, and I am going to make two references to Special Warrant to see and understand why, even we gave them a pass mark there is still work to be done. Page (14) of that report, “One hundred and eight Special Warrants totaling $19.7 million were approved by the Minister of Finance during the financial year 2015.” And they are saying this was $30 million less to the year before, when $49 million was spent. $49 million would have been way above the Finance Act provisions. “The total did not exceed the amount of $25 million fixed by parliament; however, the amount remain unappropriated at the end of the financial year.”
On page (23), of that said report, under the section Capital Budget Out-Turn: “The financial statement has shown that the initial capital expenditure budget of $ 296 million, was revised by $6 million to $302 million.” This is the important part, “however, the amount by which the initial capital expenditure budget was revised, the amount was not approved via Supplementary Appropriation Act, for the financial year 2015.” In short, periodically or from time to time, this administration is on record by no one less than the Director of Audit as not obeying the constitutional provision, the Financial Act provisions, good auditing practices and best governance procedures. Major did not say so that, the Director of Audit says that.
When we have supplementary approvals, and I put myself at the feet of the Prime Minister who has practiced and experienced in a way that I will never have in the subject matter and that’s why I accept the education, the learning moment the teaching moment. Is it an understanding that in order for the supplementary approval to come into being that the budget for that given year is expanded? Or, is it an interpretation that to meet these unforeseen circumstances, we cut and contrive? That is, we stay within what was approved by the parliament at the start of the year and live within our means. Or, is the amount of the supplementary appropriation that the budget was expanded by the amount in order to do those things those supplementary things, unforeseen things, ‘wey the money coming from’?
Because to be sure, it was not approved by the way of loans. We didn’t anticipate a grant or some other source. But as every Minister of Finance would know, when that happens, beg, steal or borrow they have to pull out their hair to find that money to deal with that emergency especially when its people they owe money. Invariably, it doesn’t take rocket science, a number of things comes across the heads and minds of a Minister of Finance or Prime Minister. In some cases, especially if it is a Capital Expenditure that money may be raised by virtue of the fact the person who I am going to ask to do it will put and use his own money until we get our money. So, people who have deep pockets have a better chance to provide that Capital Project or provide that service and it might be in the field of legal services. It is not every lawyer will trust you $100,000 or $50,000.
But, those who feel there may be a favour in return for doing work for you may say, I will do the legal work or will do the river work; I will do the work for you or they may say this is a Special Warrant situation which justifies me making use of the overdraft because I have to find the money.