… Audit Office, GECOM, procurement commission on chopping blockSixteen constitutional agencies submitted requests for monies out of the upcoming 2019 Budget, amounting to $13.2 billion. However, by the time the Finance Ministry was finished cutting them, only $11.4 billion remained from the sum.Among the agencies on the chopping block was the Audit Office of Guyana, which fulfils the vital purpose of oversight on Government spending. It requested $894.2 million, including $876.8 million for current expenditure and $17.3 million for capital spending.Instead, the Finance Ministry amended the total figure to $872 million. While it left the capital sum requested by the audit office intact, it reduced the current expenditure figure that would cater for operational expenses, to $854.6 million.In similar fashion, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) had requested $276.7 million. This includes $22.2 million for capital funding and $254.4 million for current spending. But noting in the financial paper that the PPC got $62.1 million back in 2017 as supplementary funding, the Ministry cut almost $45 million from the current sum requested and $12.8 million from its capital request.The constitutional agencies budget estimates detail what these entities sought the monies to do. For instance, the PPC requested the capital allocation to buy a $9.4 million pick-up truck that, according to the Commission, would have been used by staff to carry out investigations and monitoring of procurement agencies throughout the 10 administrative regions.A sum of $8 million was also being sought by the PPC to acquire procurement monitoring software. The PPC, which notably did a report recently implicating Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson in breaches of procurement law, wanted the software to facilitate electronic submission of information from procuring entities.Meanwhile, the Police and Public Service Commissions were not spared. The Commissions had sought $155.5 million, which included a current sum of $134.7 million and $20.8 million in capital funding. The Ministry left the current sum untouched, but then cut $9.2 million from the capital sum.The Commissions had sought the capital sum to purchase critical office supplies that included a photocopying machine, printers, a quantity of furniture and an off-road land cruiser worth $17 million that Commission said would have been used to transport Commission members and staff into Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Five (Demerara-Mahaica), Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) to conduct their duties. GECOMThe Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) also came under the big chop, with its request for a total of $6.3 billion being amended to $5.3 billion. Its current sum request of $5.3 billion was cut by $500 million, while the capital request of $975 billion was cut by almost the same amount.Under its capital estimates, a number of construction projects were on the agenda. This includes the construction of registration offices at Crane, Region Three ($25 million); Diamond, East Bank Demerara ($30 million); and Kamarang, Region Seven ($25 million). In each of these cases, GECOM was previously renting a building.Besides these and other construction projects across the country, GECOM also had plans for acquiring cameras, fingerprint readers and pads, computers, a $4.2 million satellite dish and carrying out upgrades to the hardware and software for the ID production systems, estimated to cost $315 million.Meanwhile, funding requests from the Supreme Court and the Parliament Office were also cut. In its comments when making these cuts, the Finance Ministry noted that “the recommended allocation takes into account the economic outlook for 2019 for revenue, expenditure, growth in the economy, consideration of the agency’s request within national development priorities and annualisation of salaries.”Last year, Finance Minister Winston Jordan was soundly criticised by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for cuts to constitutional agency budgets. The parliamentary Opposition had argued that to deny these agencies part of their funding is to compromise their independence.Article 222 (A) of the Constitution of Guyana states; “In order to assure the independence of entities listed in the Third Schedule… (a) The expenditure of each of these entities shall be financed as a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund, determined as a lump sum by way of an annual subvention approved by the National Assembly after review and approval of the entity’s annual budget as a part of the process of the determination of the national budget.”These entities are the Ethnic Relations Commission; the Human Rights Commission; the Women and Gender Equality Commission; the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission; the Rights and Child Commission; the Judiciary; and the Office of the Auditor General.Amendments were later brought to include the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission, the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, the Public Procurement Commission, Office of the Ombudsman and the Guyana Elections Commission in this list of entities.