Nandlall says ruling on budget for constitutional agencies ‘a good one’

-        no intention to appeal

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A split ruling with no clear win for any sides was handed down by Justice Nareshwar Harnanan on Monday, putting to rest a row at the parliamentary level on the intent of amendments to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

While the judge did not find that the 2021 amendments undermine the independence of constitutional agencies, he pointed out changes that needed to be made because it conflicts with the constitutional provisions.

The government has been instructed, via the judgment, to make procedural changes to its current budgetary process for constitutional agencies but Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has described the ruling as “a good one.”

“We have no issues with the ruling,” he told the News Room on Tuesday while also noting that there was no intention to file an appeal.

The matter was taken to court, by way of a Fixed Date Application, in February 2021 by the APNU+AFC Coalition after the government passed several amendments to the Act which reversed revisions made in 2015 to the process of approving sums for constitutional agencies.

Those amendments passed by the Coalition in 2015 insisted on scrutiny of the budget for the agencies and saw agency heads having to present the budget directly and separately to the National Assembly instead of what was obtained prior where the Finance Minister made the presentation in its entirety.

“What they [the APNU+AFC Coalition] wanted doesn’t happen in no part of the Commonwealth and we couldn’t continue… we reversed the amendments and restore to the Executive the power and functional responsibilities of the national budget for the entire country,” Nandlall explained.

Nandlall said the judgment was essential in favour of all the amendments made by the PPP/C government and also declared that the amendments made in 2015 – which took away the responsibility from the Finance Minister – was unconstitutional.

However, the government amendment which lists those agencies in a schedule was wrong and must be changed.

But Nandlall argued that the agencies were part of the schedule historically and that is the way the PPP had inherited the system; the changes as directed by the court will be made, he said.

“The judge found no evidence that the Executive in any manner was interfering with the independence of the judiciary or constitutional agencies or that the 2021 amendments were intended to compromise or undermine those agencies’ independence,” Nandlall further explained.

The Court made no coercive orders against the State and Court stated that there would be no order as to costs in light of the significant public interest nature of the action.

“The decision was a good decision, he [the judge] did not find any wrongdoing, any intent to control. He asserted constructional realities and identified loopholes,” the Attorney General said.

The Application was filed by Opposition Parliamentarians Roysdale Forde SC on behalf of his colleague Parliamentarians Ganesh Mahipaul and Coretta McDonald along with other opposition-aligned heads of a few constitutional agencies.

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