By Devina Samaroo
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira argued that there is no legal framework under which Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams can make a request for supplementary funds for the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA).
Williams is seeking approval from the National Assembly for extra budgetary funding to the tune of $89,897,285 for SARA to provide for the establishment of the entity including five managerial staff, 13 technical staff, 12 supervisory and clerical staff and 16 related staff.
But Teixeira contended that the SARA Bill explicitly states that the Legal Affairs Minister has no role to play in requesting funds for the agency. She said, according to the law, the Director of SARA is supposed to make such a request.
She further explained that so far, the Committee of Appointment has not yet commenced its work of finding a head of the agency. Additionally, Teixeira outlined that the 2017 Budget had allocations for the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) – now the SARA – and therefore asserted that those monies can be used to fund the agency until the end of 2017.
Opposition parliamentarian Bishop Juan Edghill had questioned the Legal Affairs Minister about how much of the amounts appropriated for SARU under the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) was already expended and if there are outstanding monies.
Williams however declined to answer the question, arguing that he is the line Minister in charge of SARA and not SARU – even though the SARA Bill states that the SARA now takes on the person of SARU.
Teixeira maintained that there is a lacuna in the Bill as the government, “in its haste to do this act and didn’t pay attention,” did not consider and make legal provisions for the agency o be funded in the absence of a director to be appointed by the parliamentary select committee.
Teixeira proposed that the government defers its request for supplementary funds for SARA and instead correct the omission in the SARA Bill. Withough the support of the Opposition $89M under the current estimates was approved along with $13M under capital estimates for the provision of two vehicles.