Monday, May 12, 2008

President Jagdeo demands PNC/R must account for $100M provided for scrutineers

PNC/R must account for $100M provided for scrutineers
-- President Jagdeo
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) will have to account for the $100M provided by government for the payment of scrutineers for that party.

The Head of State who expressed grave concern over the issue, told the media at State House on Saturday in an informal press brief that the government will not allow this matter to rest.

“Clearly the money has been misappropriated and misused. They have not accounted for a single cent as yet and from what I gathered there are some scrutineers that have fictitious names receiving payment, I have gathered also that some of the scrutineers are not receiving the full amount of money…We intend to get to the bottom of this, they will have to account for every cent of the resources transferred to them,” the President emphasized.

On May 8, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon indicated that information has been provided that the main Opposition Party received $100M from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to pay Opposition party scrutineers and has not accounted for the money over the past four months.

President Jagdeo said that the Ministry of Finance which is charged with the responsibility of such matters has since instructed GECOM not to make further payments until a detailed report from the party is provided on the period in question.

“From what I gather there is no report so far. The reports will be audited by the Auditor General. So if they put fictitious names there, we are going to find the fictitious people, we are going to ask them if they received money and how much they received and we are going to hold the people who signed that return responsible,” Mr. Jagdeo declared.

Since the statement by the government’s spokesman, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin has rejected the charges saying that the government’s intention is to divert attention from the real issues which relate to the rising cost of living. He said he knew nothing of the government’s claim adding that the matter might be one for GECOM and the Ministry of Finance.

President Jagdeo charged: “He (Corbin) should not try to shift the issue over to the Chief Scrutineer (Amna Ali) who just collected the cheque on behalf of the PNC. So when Corbin says that the PNC did not receive any money and that it is the Chief Scrutineer, she has collected the money on behalf of the PNC.”

The Head of State also lamented that government may have been in retrospect wrong by not allowing the other opposition parties to receive money for their scrutineers pointing to the Alliance for Change (AFC) who had been calling for such.

“We should have known better that anytime you put state money into the hands of the PNC they would misuse it, spend it other than for the intended purposes,” the President contended.

The government through Dr, Luncheon has been registering its concerns about the slow pace of the National Registration exercise and the various problems being encountered by citizens when they attempt to get registered. Registration has been ongoing in preparation for the country’s Local Government Elections.

The President pointed out that Guyana is one of the few countries that provides funds for opposition parties to pay their scrutineers but noted that this was done mainly because the government wanted a clean and clear registration process.

“Let me make it clear that we decided to give this large sum of money to the scrutineers because we wanted a clean voters’ list and we didn’t want the PNC to make the excuse that they did not have adequate personnel on the ground… without that money I doubt whether the PNC could have been able to organize a better protest because they are just bankrupt of ideas,” the President declared. (GINA)

Government’s relief flour programme underway
By Priya Nauth
RESIDENTS of Diamond and other neighbouring communities on the East Bank of Demerara were able to purchase flour at a reduced price from a mobile unit last Saturday, as a result of government’s decision to cushion the effect of global price increases for food.

The exercise was conducted at the entrance of the Diamond New Scheme, and according to Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud who dropped by to have a first hand look at the process, which mainly targets the vulnerable.

The move is seen as a temporary one because it has been predicted that the price of wheat is likely to decline over the next three or four months.

Recalling that the President had announced a $200M programme aimed at reducing the burden on the local consumers as much as possible, Persaud said:

This exercise has two aspects: There is an arrangement the President worked out with the bakers whereby they don’t have to pass on the cost of the wheat that they use and secondly this here is where the trucks are going across the country to vulnerable communities whereby flour is being reduced,” Persaud explained.

The programme is being executed by the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC).

The minister said that there is a similar initiative which started since January for rice and now the government has brought on flour temporarily, adding that the rice programme will continue.

This will be in all regions and I want persons to look out for that and to benefit from this… we hope to distribute at the end of the exercise close to 150,000 packets of the one kilogramme flour,” he encouraged.

It is temporarily and we hope by which time there will be some stabilization in the price globally so that the consumer can go back at getting the prices at a level that they can all afford,” he pointed out.

Persaud noted that this is just part of a number of initiatives that the government has undertaken.

I think it is significant…the issue of wheat and flour is very important because a lot of people use that for their staple,” he asserted.

The minister noted that the government cannot control the price, hence they are using their resources to work with the National Milling Company Guyana (NAMILCO) and bring these trucks out to the consuming public.

In fact, we give back the consumers everyday close to $1.8M using the trucks,” he revealed.

Alluding to the response to the intervention, he said nearly every truck has been sold out and in some cases, additional supplies were needed.

The minister pointed out that the trucks are in the communities at a specific time and this scheme intends to benefit the consuming public by bringing some savings by reducing the prices.

?ut regarding against persons buying and reselling, everyone will not be allowed to purchase more than four kg…that is the maximum because it is intended to get to the most vulnerable group,” Persaud pointed out.

…no one can come and buy wholesale and then go back and have the flour resold at a higher price,” he exhorted.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Chronicle spoke to some of the residents of the community who expressed their support and appreciation towards the initiative taken by the government to help alleviate the growing prices.

One consumer said that “this is helping out the poor people a lot and I am thankful to the government for this initiative”.

Another resident of the Diamond New Scheme said “this is wonderful…from what I know the way the economy is going, it is not just that everything is left to the government…it is just world prices that dictate how things go and there is a demand for food.

…it is not the government fault but it is nice to see they can do something to alleviate the suffering of the average working man and the government is taking the initiative to bring ease and that is wonderful,” the resident noted.

Another customer also noted that the people in the community regard the step taken by the government as a good idea which can help ease on the pocket.

This initiative is very good and it is helping out a lot of people and people are depending on it…up to this morning there was a big crowd here,” the resident observed.

Given escalating food prices, the government announced plans to absorb the increase in the price of flour and to stave off increases in the price of bread, biscuits, and pastries where the government will bear the price increase in flour sold to 22 bakeries which control about 95% of the market.

In addition, the government has also bought 200,000 one kilogramme packets of flour for sale (minus the price increase) to vulnerable groups which will be carried out by the New GMC.

Also, other measures to fight the rising food prices is a programme under the "Grow More" food campaign, which promotes increased production by commercial and subsistence farmers, chemicals and fertilizers, along with some 600,000 packages of vegetable seeds, will be distributed across all ten regions of Guyana at a cost of approximately $20 million.

A $4,000 cost of living ‘adjustment’ and a 5% pay hike to public sector workers will be implemented and the $4,000 tax-free cost of living adjustment will go towards government workers, teachers, soldiers, policemen, firemen and prison officers whose basic salaries are below $50, 000. The 5% salary increase will be retroactive to January this year.

The cost of living adjustment will be added to the salaries of government workers until the end of the year, following which there will be a review