Development fund still short $116 million - Finance ministry fails to reimburse money despite repeated appeals
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
MORE THAN $100 million belonging to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is yet to be reimbursed after being pulled into the Consolidated Fund, despite repeated appeals to the finance ministry.
Disgruntled members of parliament in attendance at Wednesday's sitting of the CDF committee meeting were told that the finance ministry had promised to include the $116 million in the 2010-2011 Budget via supplemental allocations, but, to date, the money has not been deposited.
Consequently, monies disbursed for the 2010-2011 financial year were used to fund projects in the previous year, some of which came in late.
The meeting was told that the finance ministry ignored a request for the CDF to date the warrant in March to accommodate projects already approved.
CDF chairman, Everald Warming-ton, said, "the disbursement for 2010/2011 financed part of the programmes for 2009-2010. And I will explain what I am saying here. There is a shortfall of $116 million in the programmes at the end of the financial year, March 2010."
Moveta Munroe, executive director of the CDF, attempted an explanation. "What had happened is that the funds were sent to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on the 31st of March and at that time, the funds could not be used."
Warmington interrupted with more details.
"It's more than that. (The Ministry of) Finance told the principal financial officer in the OPM to date the deposit for March. It was dated the 31st of March and even if the deposit was made, say the first or second of April, if the deposit was made up for the 31st of March, it would have held. But the funds had to go back to finance because the deposit slip said April."
Continuing, he said, "They instructed them, say, 'Look, for you to keep this fund, please make the deposit slip dated March'. The finance department of the OPM ignored the advice, and the deposit slip was made up April, so the funds would naturally go back to the Consolidated Fund. So that fund was not there to finance projects that were approved in the latter part of 2009-2010."
It was hoped that the funds would have been reimbursed.
"It wasn't. A lot of representations were made to Ministry of Finance, and we hoped that the minister of finance would have included it in the Supplementary Estimates, it was totally ignored," Warmington said.
He said discussions were had, and it was his understanding that the money would have been included in this year's budget, "but somebody took it out".
Warmington did not specify who removed it. He said MPs should adhere to the time schedule for projects to be handed in early.
He said the committee made a mistake when it tried to accommodate projects that were handed in late. Munroe said Warmington's comments were partially true, but not all the projects were submitted late.
She said there was confusion in the finance ministry, as some officials felt that the money was over-expenditure, but the unit has been told it could be recovered in the Supplementary Estimates for this financial year.
As a result, "The unit, now, will not finance any project from the previous year, in the current, because we are not sure where we are with this, " she said.