Fin. Sec. Joe Waight on Petrocaribe Expenditure
The government is under sustained fire for backdating the Petrocaribe Law to encompass two years of government expenditure prior to its passage. Despite borrowing upwards of two hundred and fifty million dollars for social programs and infrastructure development through the Petrocaribe initiative, the Barrow administration has come under public criticism for the manner in which it has gone about the disbursal of the funds. In many quarters it is seen as a rather unusual approach to fending off a lawsuit from Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat. By making the recently passed legislation retroactive, government has also raised the ire of the unions, the opposition and the churches. The collective notion seems to be that government should have simply proceeded with its request for disbursal in two-month intervals. That question was posed to Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, this morning. He told the media that despite the retrospective sweep, government has still managed to account for its expenses.
“So what about the point that you just wait those two months, have the funds there and then you go to the House and request for them to be used rather than what has happened that the government has come retroactively, even two years I think it is to finally put it to the table at the House?”
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary
“For the borrowing. But the thing is it’s not a secret, government still reports. Okay, the two years government is correcting now the two-year lapse by going retroactively.”
“How can you correct what’s wrong?”
“You can, a government has…”
“If they have broken the law or if they’ve made a, they went against the law then how can they now go back, and I mean to say, so the government has the power to…”
“The government has the authority. Look at the nationalizations, I draw a parallel there. The courts found that the nationalization wasn’t proper, the government went back and did it again. I mean, the government just has the [power] once it goes to parliament it can do that.”
Michael Young, Legal Adviser, U.D.P.
“You ask how can you correct what is wrong? Well, we do it all the time don’t we. We’re talking here about a procedural requirement and there was a challenge as to whether the government adopted the proper procedures to enable the funds to be disbursed. And so, and that challenge threatened to stop the continued flow of the funds. So the government decide that they are going, if there was a wrong, then it is going to be corrected so that the funds can continue flowing. I really don’t see, in my mind, that that is something wrong. You do that all the time.”