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May 28, 2015

Draft Petrocaribe Amendment Dissected by Attorney Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck

Government has come under considerable fire for the controversial Petrocaribe Loans Act which was passed in the House in March. On June twenty-sixth, government will be tabling amendments to the Act in the House of Representatives when parliament is scheduled to convene.  When the bill was first tabled in the House, it was only made available to Opposition House members the day prior to its tabling. But an advance copy of the amended draft Petrocaribe Loans Act is presently in circulation.  The rough copy was made available to the unions, as well as the business community on Wednesday during a meeting held with P.M. Barrow to discuss the proposed changes.  While it has not been released to the Opposition, Deputy Party Leader Julius Espat, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has had an opportunity to pore over the bill.  Espat, as you would recall, is suing the prime minister based on the illegality of the loan motion.  We’ll have his political perspective on the changes a bit later.  But first, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, having briefly looked over the document, provides a legal interpretation of what is being proposed.   His explanation is set against the backdrop that the borrowing and spending of Petrocaribe funds have been unlawful from the onset.

 

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney in Legal Claim

“We’ve always maintained that both the borrowing and the spending of the Petrocaribe monies have been done illegally over the years, ever since the program began under this administration in 2012.  What the various legislative measures taken, and they’ve been a number so far.  There have been two loan motions, they’ve been four supplementary appropriations act, there’s the Petrocaribe Loans Act and now the amendments to the Petrocaribe Loans Act.  All of these have been geared at trying to cure the irregularity and wipe away the past transgressions.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of the specific sections that are either to be amended or to be introduced, what is the understanding having perused or having read in detail what is committed to writing there?”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“I’ve only had a chance to look at it when you presented it just now.  But just from a cursory view of it I see that the first change is designed to make clear that the special account at Central Bank is to be a part of the consolidated revenue fund.  This cuts two ways in terms of compliance with the Finance and Audit Reform Act because in the first place when you bring it in and make it a part of the consolidated revenue fund and there was evidence presented before to suggest that it was not part of the fund and so was not part of the fund and so it was not subject to audit by the auditor general and the other controls that the consolidated revenue fund is subjected to.  By subjecting it now and making it clear that it is a part of the fund, of course you’re subjected to all those considerations.  The flipside of it though is that by the expressed terms of the Finance and Audit Reform Act, any monies borrowed for development purposes should be a part of the development fund, not the consolidated revenue fund and then it can only be withdrawn and spent in accordance with the rules set out in the schedule to the Finance and Audit Reform Act.  So by providing that it’s to be a part of the consolidated revenue fund, impliedly what they are saying is that they are not making it a part of the development fund nor will they be following any of those rules.”

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