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Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock, left, and Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN file photos)
Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock, left, and Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN file photos)

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has admitted to spending over EC$100 million over the past few years without the approval of the Parliament, contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves admitted this in Parliament last week, in response to a question by opposition lawmaker, St. Clair Leacock.

“I don’t want to get into the dancing of legal angels on the head of a pin. So I will simply make that commitment at this point, that those estimates will be brought before this honourable house, bringing us into compliance with our obligations under Article 70 of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the finance minister said.

His promise to correct the situation came five months after the expiration of the date on which he had said the requisite law would have been brought to parliament.

Leacock, in response to the finance minister’s disclosure of the amount of money spent without parliamentary approval since 2014, said:

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“In essence, we have spent close to a hundred million dollars without the authority of the Parliament. That’s the point. Over a hundred million dollars without the lawful authority of the Parliament; that’s the point I am trying to make,” Leacock said after Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves responded to a question by the opposition member.

Gonsalves reiterated that the supplementary estimates would be brought before the parliament at its next sitting.

Leacock, who is Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, had asked Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology, to say what supplementary bills had been brought to Parliament since the Supplementary Appropriation Act No. 17 of 2013 was gazetted.

He further asked Gonsalves what is the total amount of Special Warrants issued for the years 2015 and 2019.

Leacock has included in the question the special warrants for the years 2013 to 2019, but the House Speaker, Jomo Thomas, under the standing orders, excised all but two of the years because Leacock had asked a similar question during the current session of the Parliament.

In response, Gonsalves said the last supplementary appropriation act passed was No. 3 of 2014, dated April 8, 2014 in respect of supplementary appropriation for 2013 financial year, for the sum of EC$30,960,372.

“There has been no further tabling of supplementary appropriation bills for parliamentary approval since that time,” said the finance minister, who took over that post from his father, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in November 2017.

The finance minister further said that in response to an earlier question from Leacock, a commitment was made to have the outstanding supplementary appropriation bills for the years 2014 through 2018 tabled last March for consideration by the Parliament.

“And March has subsequently passed, obviously. However, the process, within the ministry, a compilation and then the subsequent review by the executive had taken a bit more time that originally anticipated to be completed. However, I can assure this honourable house that the work is complete and the outstanding bills will be placed before this honourable house at its next sitting,” Gonsalves said.

He told lawmakers that the total amount of special warrants issued in 2015 amounted to EC$16,827,875, while in 2019, it is EC$9,233,488

Asked if he has any reasonable estimates of what the total for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 would amount to, Gonsalves said that in 2016 it was EC$22.7 million, in 2017, EC$28.6 million, and in 2018, EC$28.8 million.

The revelation of the figures triggered Leacock’s comments about the government having spent EC$109 million without parliamentary approval.

Leacock returned to the topic on Wednesday during his weekly appearance on New Times, his New Democratic party’s daily radio programme.

He said that it is important, sometimes, to get the government on record in the Hansard in the parliament “so we could broaden the debate”.

He said there is a “credibility gap” in that every year the government keeps putting into the Budget figures for which money is not realised.

Leacock said that in asking the question in parliament last week, he wanted to see, in the eighth month of the year, how far along the government was with those records

“Because, in another month or two, there will be a new Budget and you have to put them and let them hang out to dry for people to see how dishonest and misleading they are in presenting the most important financial document of the people of the country.”

He said that people sometimes underestimate the importance of opposition representation as an oversight body in the parliament.

“And yes, there are different levels because when the oversight relates to constitutionally entrenched provisions, it takes on an even greater life than when it is to just executive functions, where a minister may have mismanaged his portfolio one way or the other. That’s bad enough and you can seek redress.  But when you are having excesses which go to the root of contravening the constitution of the country, that is even more serious and this question that we are raising with the supplementary bill speaks precisely to that.”

Leacock said that the Constitution lays out clearly the role of parliament in managing state resources.

“It also identifies the roles in the parliament for the Director of Audit, it also identifies and speaks to the law of the Financial Administration Act and how all these things are executed and then, most importantly, it also speaks to the role of the public accounts committee. All these are constitutional provisions, which, if ignored or left unattended, lead to an erosion of the work in the house.”

The opposition lawmakers said that the Director of Audit, in one report, said, “The ease with which funds can be obtained and spent without the authorisation of the House of Assembly should be reviewed to satisfy the purpose of section 72 (1)&(2) of the 1979 constitution.”

Leacock commented:

“Government is finding it too easy to spend money without our approval and we already have it on record, which they cannot win, that they did precisely that with the PetroCaribe funds, which did not go into the Consolidated Fund or a special fund for that purpose which the law establish, but they put it into their own fund for which you did not require the signature of the Accountant General and allow all of those monies to be spent ‘til there was no more PetroCaribe funds and to the extent that their hands were now stuck in the cookie jar and a case could have been made for misbehaviour in public office, they came retroactively and gave pardon and forgiveness for all those sins.”

14 replies on “Gov’t spends over $100m without approval”

  1. Anthony Durrant MBE JP CMIPD says:

    That is a staggering amount of illegal expenditure and in most instances the government of the day would have had to resign. I recall, in the early 1960s when the PPP were in power, the PM E T Joshua,s wife was a Minister in her own right and had overspent her budget without the permission of Parliament. SVG was still a colony of GB and the F&CO sacked the whole gov’t and new elections had to be held. Isn’t it about time that we brought back transparency in Gov’t and above all good governance?

  2. Impeachment is the answer because such behaviour is a form of corruption, they are corrupting the constitutional system.

    The GG should be asked if in her opinion parliament should be suspended and an election be called because of gross misbehaviour in public office. Ask her to ask the opinion of the British Government because she will not be able to get a proper advice from the alleged perpetrators of this matter.

    This is a constitutional matter so an out of state adviser on constitutional matters is required. The present government should not be consulted.

  3. It is a well-known and undeniable fact that the Ralph Gonsalves Administration is a total financial disaster. It is the primary reason why Saint Vincent is what Donald Trump would call a S%#t hole country. This country could be so great but we have tricksters at the helm. All we have at present is based on debt. You do not want to think of what this country would be like if we have to pay-off all our creditors! We would all have no shoes and be wearing cloths made of grass. We have Ralph Gonsalves to thank for this.
    Like a few others that have left comments on articles pertaining to economics:

    All these years of bad financial policy that does not create jobs but instead destroys jobs is the elephant in the room that grows larger and larger. No Marriott Hotel or Medicinal Cannabis is going to save us. The government has to wake-up, change the way we do things: lower all the Customs charges on imports that are good for the country, and other taxes that keep investors away. simplify laws pertaining to investment so that we can import machines that can build clean, green industries that employ the idle hands.The present government does everything the wrong way, and that is why we are going nowhere!

    Leacock has brought to light how sneaky the government is. No one is surprised. Devious, underhanded cheating idiots is what is passing for government around the world today. They are genius when it comes to transfering the money from our pockets to thiers and then they turn into magicians by making the money disappear. We are all doomed!

  4. This reminds me of King Charles the first of England. After his succession to the English throne in 1625, King Charles the first of England quarrelled with the Parliament of England which sought to curb his Royal Prerogative. Charles for his part however believed in the divine rights of Kings, and was determined to govern the country according to his own whims and conscience.

    Many of his English subjects opposed his policies, in particular “the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent”, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. And as they say, the rest is now history, as he eventually lost his head in the process to the axeman.

    If as King Charles saw it then, that he did not need the Parliament’s approval to both tax and spend as he so wished, why would our today’s self-imposed king of SVG think any differently! After all he is unlikely to lose his head.

  5. Is there a way for the opposition to challenge illicit, illegal and dictatorial actions in court? Can the opposition ask the court to put issues on hold until there is a court ruling? What is the constitution for if the government will not adhere to it rational? The next referendum should cover the bad things the ULP did while in power. NDP should ensure no government can get away with the actions of the ULP. I know there are lots of things to examine and I believe the NDP should get a group to look into this process.

  6. Many in the NDP, SKECKPALMER are Lawyers, including its leader himself, but sadly, holding our self-appointed King and his extended family and their party to account, is no doubt proving to be very, very difficult indeed, especially when so many Vincentians can just about write their names and the lure of sacks of Cement, lumber or sheets of corrugated galvanise often proves to be so tempting to those who are in need.

    As you no doubt are aware, over the last few year, most of the civil and civic institutions here in SVG, like those in Venezuela have been profoundly corrupted, rendering the demand for accountability difficult and only to the self-appointed King and extended family.

    What would John Locke (1632–1704) would have thought, as the rightful resultant actions, on the part of citizens, in his Two Treatises of Government is not too hard to assume!

    However you may find these works interesting reading that is if you have not already read them. Starting with Edmund Burke; Thomas Hobbes’s
    And Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract.

    For sure, what it all comes down to my dear SKECKPALMER, is how much of the abuse of power we as a nation in the end could tolerate, and what we eventually do, do as a result to curb such abusive excesses by one family of usurpers.

  7. Corruption is multi faceted and transparency is a sheet of smoked glass under this ULP pretend Labour government.

    There is no light at the end of the tunnel, they stole the bulb.

  8. I am beginning to believe that Russia helped most of the Caribbean monsters to get elected during the last ten years. If they interfered in the US elections which has a sophisticated internet system with all sorts of fire walls, you can be sure corrupting the Caribbean would be simplicity itself.

    The question is did Russia interfere in Caribbean elections and in particular those held in countries with ALBA membership?

    1. Russia did not influence any of our elections or the US Election. There are other countries that heavily influence elections such as the USA and Israel. Israel heavily influences the US Elections, just ask most of the US Government, especially former Congress woman Cynthia McKinney. Google is actually the biggest influence on elections. That is fact!
      Jolly, do not fall into the Globalist trap that everything that goes wrong… “Putin did it!” Putin is hiding under our beds or in our closet. Did you lose your car keys?…Putin did it…or maybe Iran!

  9. Making a wrong right, a ULP specialty.

    They are coming to parliament to try and correct an offense against the constitution, which should not be possible. I call on the opposition to take whatever action they can through the courts.

    “estimates will be brought before this honourable house, bringing us into compliance with our obligations under Article 70 of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the finance minister [Camillo Gonsalves] said.”

    That’s not good enough Sir, this should be an indictable offense, just like you cannot make it legally right to kill someone because you bring actions retroactively to say it was OK.

    Coming after the fact of using 100 million without approval, but also without oversite and the previous right of objection politically, publicly or judicially, you have already done the constitutional wrong, committed an illegal act. You cannot say for sure if the amounts would have previously been approved by parliament.

    Resignation should be the way forward.

    If it were not so important it would be amusing to observe that Ralph Gonsalves passed the Ministry of Finance to his son Camillo, in doing so passed the buck and threw him under the bus.

    We must not forget this happened under the comrades watch; I doubt his son would have had much say in the matter. The comrade was the minister of finance.

    Every cent of the 100 million should be accounted for, itemized, and scrutinized; special observations should be made if any of this money was to pay contractors for any government works or schemes. Did any of it go into Argyle airport?

    The problems with matters like this are not just the worries of corruption being involved, but also the public’s perception, rightly or wrongly, of corruption at play.

    It is very clear that by these kinds of things happening our democracy is under attack, some may believe this could only happen in Venezuela under Maduro, but not so.

    Permission to use government money is required before using it, so as parliament on both sides of the house can debate and approve or not approve. There is no provision in the constitution for a government to make retroactive approval. Most likely without it being before both sides of the house in approving such an action, and because it’s a constitutional matter it should carry a two-thirds approval to pass.

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