Jamaica Gleaner / Members of Parliament (MP) who lost millions of dollars to some implementing agencies for years, yesterday vented their frustration during a meeting of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee of Parliament at not being reimbursed.
MPs are allocated $15 million per year for constituencies, and Richard Azan told the meeting that he lost “millions” to one agency, adding that the problem has been longstanding.
CDF chairman Everald Warmington “could not remember” the total sum owed to MPs and neither could Moveta Munroe, executive director of the CDF unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. Azan enquired whether it was likely that funds would be reimbursed, but Warmington said it was unlikely as the Ministry of Finance said it was unaware of the issue.
“When I spoke to finance, the budget director, they weren’t aware of it. And we were not approached before the last budget to have it included,” said Warmington.
Azan asked whether an approach should be made to the Minister of Finance for an allocation in the Supplementary Budget but Warmington told the aggrieved MP not to hold his breath. Such an approach, Warmington said, should be made through the Ministry of Local Government but to date this has not been done. Azan said $3 million or $4 million was a lot to lose by one MP.
“It wasn’t an error, you know. The funds were deliberately used. Their explanation was that they didn’t have budgetary support from Ministry of Finance to undertake all their expenses. The issue now is that they are being funded adequately,” said Warmington.
The CDF chairman was of the view that the MPs did not lose anything, as the matter dates back to 2007-2008 under the Social and Economic Support Programme (SESP).
… CDF is not a savings account – Munroe! As members of parliament vented their anger about funds held by agencies to oversee projects under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), executive director Moveta Munroe told them to spend the money allocated and stop hoarding funds.
“We cannot attempt to accumulate CDF money. You are allocated x amount for the year and it must be spent within the financial year. CDF is not a savings account,” said Munroe at a committee meeting at Gordon House yesterday.
MP Richard Azan was insistent that “the agency can’t use what is supposed to belong to a constituency and use it for their own budgetary support.”
“You know I have been fighting the issue for years and asking the agencies to refund the allocation. And some of the constituencies are owed substantial amount. Let me look for the file and see, and then ask, but I doubt it can reach the Supplementary Estimates for this year. But at least we should make some effort from now,” CDF chairman Everald Warmington said.
Azan said an appeal should be made for even part reimbursement.
Horace Daley said the MPs should allow the matter to slide and a way must be identified for it to be dealt with in the future. A planned meeting with heads of agencies flopped this year because of poor attendance by the MPs.
Member Mikhail Phillips said some implementing agencies held the monies and lied to the MPs, while Daley said sloppy accounting was being kept by agencies and MPs alike.
Meanwhile, the committee approved 31 projects and withdrew one.
The most expensive project approved was submitted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for $5.5 million.