-as provided for in new NRF Act
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, January 24, 2022: The National Assembly this evening approved a Motion by Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh for the Appointment Committee to recommend a Parliamentary nominee to serve on the new 2021 Natural Resource Fund’s (NRF) Board of Directors as stipulated in Part III of the Act as well as for another Parliamentary Nominee to serve on the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee (PAOC) in pursuant of Section VI of the new Act. This inclusion in the new Act (Board of Directors) was made by government as part of groundbreaking amendments to the old 2019 NRF Act as it removed the excessive powers of the Minister which were contained in the old Act. It also allows for management of the Fund by the Board of Directors, a Board which will be responsible for reviewing and approving the policies of the Fund and monitoring its performance, thereby completely separating the management of the Fund from the Minister responsible for Finance.
According to Part III of the new Act, Governance and Management of the Fund ‘shall be selected from among persons who have wide experience and ability in legal, financial business or administrative matters, one of whom shall be nominated by the National Assembly and one of whom shall be a representative of the private sector’.
In moving the Motion Dr. Singh reminded the House about some of the reasons why the NRF was amended including:
- That the old 2019 NRF Act was an illegitimate Act passed by Parliament after the then APNU/AFC Government lost a No Confidence Motion.
- That in the old NRF Act the Minister of Finance had exclusive and far-reaching powers.
- That the old Act used a complex formula to calculate how much could be withdrawn from the
Fund, leaving the general public in the dark.
- That the 2019 NRF Act stipulated the establishment of a cumbersome 22-member Public
Accountability and Oversight Committee (PAOC) designed for deadlock
Minister Singh also reminded the Speaker and the National Assembly that the People’s Progressive/Civic (PPP/C) Government had indicated once it entered office that ‘unless those fatal flaws are fixed not a cent will be drawn from the Natural Resource Fund’.
He posited that ‘where the Minister of Finance had unlimited powers those powers have been removed by the PPP/C Government’s NRF Act. Where there was no Board of Directors in the APNU/AFC’s Act 2019, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s there will now be a Board of Directors’.
Minister Singh emphasized further that Government was clear in its intention to ensure that there was full transparency and accountability in terms of transfer of funds from the NRF to the Consolidated Fund as this would be fully scrutinized by the National Assembly during every step of the way.
“ Sir, the Natural Resource Fund belongs to the people of Guyana. The people of Guyana own this fund and the people of Guyana must understand the basis on which the amount to be transferred from the fund is calculated,” he added, noting that in the old Act this calculation was not established.
In referencing the various criticisms of the New NRF Act, Minister Singh pointed out that “In all this hullabalu, one feature is striking-not a single soul has proffered or ventured a number (formula) to represent what would have been transferred under the APNU/AFC’s Natural Resource Fund Act”. He said that the answer was simple as it would have been ‘one man’ (the Finance Minister) who would have done so.
“We have written it in the law that every single cent to be trasnferred to the Consolidated Fund, that nothing can be transferred from the Fund to the Conslidated Fund unless it is scrutnized by the National Assembly,” Dr. Singh reiterated.
“They made a big fuss about the President appointing members to the Board but none of them had a problem with the Minister being appointed by the President (Finance Minister) having all the powers in the Act, but they have a problem with the President appointing five persons to the Board. This President has a mandate by the people of Guyana to govern ….and on top of that Sir, the fact that the Board has a nominee of the National Assembly…that Sir is an even further added positive architecture in the new Act,” Dr. Singh concluded.