Sukhai grilled by Committee of Supply over tractors request
The sum of $434 million was yesterday approved for the procurement of more tractors for the development of projects in Amerindian communities after some questioning by Parliament’s Committee of Supply.
This sum was approved under Financial Paper No. 4 as the assembly went into the Committee of Supply to discuss supplementary provisions for various agencies for this year. As this project was brought up under the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs’ Amerindian Development Fund (ADF), members of the house wanted to know what the funds will be used for if approved.
In defending the request, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, told the committee that the monies will be used as payment for additional tractors for Amerindian communities including trailers and equipment and also to cater to requests that were submitted within the year to the ministry for projects within Amerindian villages.
Deputy Speaker Lenox Shuman then enquired whether the $1.5 billion which was previously allocated had been fully expended to which Sukhai confirmed that her ministry has spent the sum allotted to the ADF for 2021.
The procurement of tractors as part of this supplementary provision raised questions as the recently released Auditor General’s report revealed that in 2020, the ministry had single-sourced some 112 tractors and trailers. This caused many to question as to whether the ministry had flouted current procurement laws by using this method.
In an attempt to gain a better grasp of the issue, Shuman, who represents the Liberty and Justice Party, asked, “While I appreciate that the government is seeking value for dollar and that the previous[ly] procured equipment does provide that kind of value for dollar, what component of the $434 million that you’re currently asking for from this house will be utilized in a single-source component?”
Sukhai in her response did not directly address the issue of sole-sourcing, but stated that the procurement process that will be utilised will deliver value to the ministry and support the government’s programme in delivering to the people of the country.
Questioning the ministry’s budgeting process, APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley noted that around the same time last year, a supplementary request was placed for the procurement of tractors and wondered whether it is a policy of the government to provide tractors to the Amerindian communities.
“I’m wondering whether or not if this is a clear policy, why it is that the minister keeps coming at the end of the year for another [supplementary]. Has a decision been made on how many tractors they want to give the Amerindian communities within the five years so that they can budget it the right way so they don’t have to come with a supplementary at the end of the year.” The former minister added that
she was seeking clarity as to whether it is a policy or just an ad-hoc approach to budgeting and development within the Indigenous communities.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister then stated that the government has a clear policy of accelerating development within those Indigenous communities and noted that there was no supplemental request for tractor trailers as it came within the budget and as such they will work towards adding to the programme of distribution of tractors to support sectors within the hinterland communities.
However, during the sitting, SaraboHalley consulted a previous financial paper for 2020 and told the House that it was mentioned therein that some $130 million was requested for the provision of additional resources with respect to the procurement of tractors and trailers. This, she informed, came in December 2020 and was part of a supplementary paper.
“Whether or not it was the policy of the government to give out tractors and trailers to the communities that is fine… if it is that they cannot do that in the budget and not come at the end of the year like she did last year asking for 71. Can you not determine that every year we want to give 100, 500 and put it in the substantial budget instead of requesting monies at the end of the year to try to procure tractors?” the former minister queried.
Sukhai then explained to the House that while some $300 million was placed in the budget for the procurement, that supplementary amount was for the remaining payments.
Members of the house asked what additional projects will be financed with this additional $434 million, to which the minister stated that communities from regions, One, Two, Three, Four, Seven, Eight and Nine will benefit from the investment and that the projects range from financing Wood-Mizers (portable sawmills), to developing the ability and use of wood products, organic agriculture, poultry farming and much more.
The minister noted that it also accounts for the completion of the eco-lodge cabin at St Cuthbert’s Mission as it goes across various different projects requested by those communities within the hinterland
and a few from coastal areas.
Further it was stated that $205.9 million will go towards the 50 per cent payment for the cost of tractors and trailers while $35.429 million will go towards 50 per cent payment for the implements
which include chippers and ploughs. Additionally some $192,671,000 will be used for the projects across the communities for a total of $434 million.
The sum was later approved by the Committee of Supply.