Budget 2019It was a showdown in last Thursday’s meeting of the Business Subcommittee of the Committee of Supply, as the parliamentary Opposition’s attempted to schedule more time to scrutinise the Ministry of the Presidency estimates were defeated by the Government.The Ministry of the Presidency has 11 programmes; far more programmes than any other Ministry with the exception of the Communities Ministry. It is understood that in light of this increased ambit, Opposition parliamentarian and committee member, Irfaan Ali proposed a half-hour extension of time to two and a half hours.In the minutes for the meeting seen by Guyana Times, this proposal did not find favour with the Government side. When the matter was put to the vote in the committee, it was defeated by the Government majority, leaving the time to examine this critical Ministry at two hours.The meeting was held in the Speakers’ Chambers of the National Assembly and was chaired by the Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland. Voting for the increased time were Opposition committee members and parliamentarians Ali, Juan Edghill, Dharamkumar Seeraj and Collin Croal.Voting against extending the time to scrutinise the Ministry were Government members – Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge; Social Protection Minister Amna Ally; Public Service Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine; Junior Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Valarie Garrido-Lowe; and parliamentarian John Adams.The Ministry of Presidency’s programmes include Petroleum and Energy Management, a major programme when the oil and gas sector is considered. In addition, Defence and National Security; Citizenship and Immigration Services; Social Cohesion, Youth and Sport and monies for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) fall under this Ministry, which will be represented by Minister of State Joseph Harmon.Meanwhile, there was also discussion about Region Six, which was allotted one and a half hours for consideration. Ally requested that this time be shortened by half an hour, to make up for time allotted to Region Seven. According to the minutes, the committee was unable to reach a consensus and the matter was put to a vote, which the Government side once again won.ScrutinyIn one of the most controversial events to ever take place in the National Assembly, Police ranks stormed the parliamentary chambers during the consideration of the Budget 2018 estimates last year December; even as Edghill was attempting to scrutinise that very Ministry.At the time, the Opposition had also argued that the time allotted to scrutinise the Ministry of the Presidency was too short. But when he refused to back down from questioning certain line items of the Ministry, subsequent events resulted in Police being called.In the chaos that followed, Edghill’s parliamentary colleagues formed a human ring to protect the MP and there were claims of physical assault. Edghill was later barred by the Speaker from entering the chambers. When he showed up outside Parliament Building, he was subsequently arrested.At the time, Edghill had said that by ordering his arrest, the Government was seeking to avoid the scrutiny of the flawed 2018 Budget and the Ministry of the Presidency. It is a view the People’s Progressive Party supported, as the Party later expressed concern that slush funds were being hidden in the budget estimates fineprint.“Scrutiny is what the Government wants to avoid and even though I am being victimised in this manner, I will ask my colleagues, as far as is possible, to continue to scrutinise the Budget and to expose the corruption, slush funds and all the monies they (Government) plan to steal for political purposes stashed in that budget,” he had charged.“That budget is lumped with sums for political purposes and we will not run away from our task. I would hope that the budget gets the scrutiny it deserves, because the plan of the Government is to pass the budget without scrutiny and we will not give into that game plan,” Edghill had added.The perusal of Budget 2019’s estimates begins on Monday, December 10. The Ministry of the Presidency is the first Ministry to be examined, followed by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Legal Affairs Ministry.