Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves has promised Parliament that there will not be a repeat of the situation in which his government took years – five years in some cases — to bring special warrants to the national assembly for approval.
“I want to say something before I begin discussing what is in the estimates that I recall the commitment by the professionals of my ministry in January that these outstanding supplementary estimates which were highlighted by the Honourable Member for Central Kingstown, there was a commitment that we would do what we are doing now in March in 2019.
“It’s quite obvious that we missed that mark by a number of months and the supplementary estimates were already late when we made that commitment and I want to say that it is not acceptable that the supplementary estimates dating as far back as 2014 are being brought to this honourable house in 2019. I want to say that and I want to give an undertaking to this honourable house that such delinquency will not happen again in the future,” Gonsalves said.
Parliament approved the supplementary estimates, some of which date back to 2014, when there was a different Parliament constituted.
Gonsalves, who only became finance minister in 2017, when he replaced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, defended the use of the special warrants.
“So you have an instance where the budget has passed and something comes up, wither there is an unforeseen thing that happens, you didn’t expect something to happen or there was something there in the budget but it wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t enough money to do what it is you thought it would do in the budget.
“And [if] you can’t postpone paying these bills or making these expenditures, the minister may issue a special warrant and that special warrant then allows for the money to be spent and thereafter, you bring those special warrants the money spent,” he said, citing the law.
Gonsalves said that when he read the Hansard, other ministers of finance on both sides of the house have made similar commitments about not having a repeat of the delinquency.
“But I want to say that while there may be exigent circumstances from time to time, that I am sure that the honourable house would understand the act of bringing this information before the honourable house to explain whatever question there may be and to account for in a public forum the money that has been spent. It is important that we do it and it is important that we do it periodically and I want to give that undertaking.”
However, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday seems unmoved by the finance minister’s promise.
“The process engaged in here by this government over the past five years is one where you have expenditures that are basically done in the dark in that the light of parliament is not shone on it for five years. Why so long?” Friday said.
Friday said it was not in the contemplation of the constitution or the legislation that it would take so long to bring the special warrants to Parliament.
“…It’s almost embarrassing to think that we are dealing here in this honourable house today with special warrants that were spent not by this Parliament, not under this Parliament, but in 2014 under a previous Parliament — legally, a previous government and we are now dealing with them here in this parliament. I don’t even know how to consider the legality of that process,” Friday said.
“It appears to me that the kind of laissez-faire attitude that his government had adopted in respect to these matters. It’s not a case of being late; it is a case of being negligent or not seeming to care whatsoever that these matters are brought to the parliament.
“We have heard all the talk about transparency and good governance but what does the record say on this most fundamental aspect of good governance?”
Friday questioned the usefulness of the Finance Administration Act that the Gonsalves government passed in 2005, which suggests that the special warrant must be brought to Parliament within 12 months.
However, there was some debate over the meaning of the actual words of the relevant section of that law.
The opposition leader asked what good is the 2005 law if the government does not follow it.
“I was sitting and listening to the Minister of Finance and with all the handwringing about it’s so late and so on, but if the Honourable Member for Central Kingstown and the members on this side had not raised the issue, we would have had more special warrants being issued, monies being spent, God knows from where, and not being brought to the Parliament,” Friday said.
Member for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, an opposition lawmaker, brought the situation with the special warrants to the attention of the Parliament and the nation last month when he asked a question about it.
Seeing as they will not be in government for another five years we can accept his word on that.
But each of those amounts needs to be investigated to see if payments were made to tame ULP contractors.
Wow! Camillo admitted a mistake! That already means he has a power that his father does not have. Most politicians do not have the strength to admit they ever made a mistake. Maybe we would have seen this power if his father did not tell him to keep silent after the alleged affair. If he would have thought and said the right words at that time he could have gained respect instead of losing some. He should continue to do some good things if he wants to alleviate some of that. Respect to Camillo!
In my opinion he has gone up a notch That puts him at notch one.
Democracy and not Dynasty please!
“It’s quite obvious that we missed that mark by a number of months…” Gonsalves; What a joke!
“… I want to give an undertaking to this honourable house that such delinquency will not happen again in the future,”………………. LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!
AND LET US HAVE A GOOD AND PROPER AUDIT FOR ONCE. Who knows what barrel of worms may be discovered.
Since when has the Lawmakers becomes delinquent Lawbreakers? …LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!
Poor Governance and Faulty economic theories, contribute to perpetual divisions and promote corruption….a legacy of history…..
It was the responsibility of the Finance Minister in TRUST on behalf of the people of SVG, to ensure the books are in order and that the mandate given is compliant. Likewise; the opposition has displayed NEGLIGENCE not to have brought the tardy matter to light earlier. However, to be honest with myself; based on past conducts within this regime I am sceptical by the finance minister’s promise.
Elma, You cannot lay any blame at the door of the NDP. They simply have not had the opportunity to go and look at the books and have had to rely on the Director of Audit, that itself is always years behind schedule that by the time reports come out the perpetrators of mal practice have dived for cover.
The person who is currently Minister of Finance is Camillo Gonsalves. His father, Ralph Gonsalves who was previously Minister of Finance, should perhaps be considered for Misconduct in public office. The ministry of finance appears to be a dynastical appointment.
There has got be something highly illegal about these payments otherwise they would have been declared a long time ago. Is this some of the continuation work of Maurice Bishop? Was this an attempt to not keep two sets of books but to keep one set and simply discard the rest.
The NDP should demand an enquiry, after all this was an extremely serious breach of the constitution. Its like robbing a bank and admitting doing it four years later, expecting no consequence for committing the original crime.
Misconduct in public office is an offence at common law triable only on indictment. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It is an offence confined to those who are public office holders and is committed when the office holder acts (or fails to act) in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office, most often under purposeful breach of the constitution.
The offence should be strictly confined. It can raise complex and sometimes sensitive issues. The Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] should be asked to resolve any uncertainty as to whether it would be appropriate to bring a prosecution for such an offence. In the failing by the DPP, there are other regional and international bodies that can be sort for advice on appropriate action and how to go about such an action.
Where there is clear evidence of one or more statutory offences, they should usually form the basis of the case, with the ‘public office’ element being put forward as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in Attorney General’s Reference No 3 of 2003  EWCA Crim 868 does not go so far as to prohibit the use of misconduct in public office where there is a statutory offence available. There is, however, earlier authority for preferring the use of statutory offences over common law ones. In R v Hall (1891) 1 QB 747 the court held that where a statute creates (or recreates) a duty and prescribes a particular penalty for a wilful neglect of that duty ‘the remedy by indictment is excluded’.
In R v Rimmington, R v Goldstein  UKHL63 at paragraph 30 the House of Lords confirmed this approach, saying:
“…good practice and respect for the primacy of statute…require that conduct falling within the terms of a specific statutory provision should be prosecuted under that provision unless there is good reason for doing otherwise.”
The use of the common law offence should therefore be limited to the following situations:
Where there is no relevant statutory offence, but the behaviour or the circumstances are such that they should nevertheless be treated as criminal;
Where there is a statutory offence, but it would be difficult or inappropriate to use it. This might arise because of evidential difficulties in proving the statutory offence in the particular circumstances; or because the maximum sentence for the statutory offence would be entirely insufficient for the seriousness of the misconduct.
There is absolute oodles of case law and procedures in and throughout the Commonwealth. Perhaps even advice from the Commonwealth legal department should be initially requested.
Going into parliament and trying to make good a breach retrospectively is simply not good enough because the breach in this case was long out of date for rectification.
It, was not until the NDP complained, that any action was taken in trying to rectify this matter. But what would have happened if the NDP had not brought it to the attention of Parliament? Would it all have been lost in time? Or continued to be hidden from view?
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