Amerindian leaders urged to consult when changing priorities outlined in sustainable plans

Amerindian leaders from the over 200 villages across Guyana were on Monday urged to consult with residents when changing the projects outlined in their 10-year Village Sustainable Plans (VSPs) that are required to access funds available to their villages under the expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS 2030).

Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai during the afternoon session of the 2023 National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) revealed that there are instances where villages have been diverting from their initial plans.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai addressing over 200 Amerindian leaders at the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference 2023

She reminded that the monies are expected to enhance the livelihoods and economic fortunes of the Indigenous peoples.

“I have had to insist and provide guidance that if you want a change in your project, then you go back to the village, explain why the project may not be favourable or is no longer a priority and some newer priority has overtaken the earlier thinking and do it the right way. Consult with your villagers, if it is an appropriate change, they will give you their support and approval,”  the minister said.

This change, Minister Sukhai further explained has to be documented to allow for smooth financial scrutiny by the Auditor General’s Office, which is examined at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meetings.

“Similarly, with the capital programme funding or the Presidential Grant funding, when you want to change your project, you should ensure you get concurrence with your village and then you notify the ministry because that is a different auditing system,” she added.

This sentiment was also shared by the acting Permanent Secretary of the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, Ryan Toolsiram.

“We can only disburse funds for projects that are listed in the Village Sustainable Plans (VSPs), mainly because the plan was approved by the village. So, you can’t come for other projects that weren’t approved by the village,” Toolsiram expressed firmly.

The permanent secretary added that for villages in Region One (Barima–Waini), due to inconsistencies experienced with monies provided for capital projects in the region, they are required to lodge monies to the Regional Democratic Council (RDC).

“For safekeeping, we have asked the RDC from Region One to assist the ministry in executing these projects, because villages from Region One, we are having tremendous accountability issues …. Remember, this is your money for your project … so, we have advised you to leave half of it with the RDC,” he added.

The conference runs for four days at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC)

During the afternoon session, the 2022/2023 Report of the NTC was adopted following presentations by the Secretary, Toshao Shane Cornelius on the work of the body and Treasurer, Toshao Michael Thomas.

Chinese Landing’s Toshao, Orin Fernandes was also granted a chance to present his report on the mining situation in his village which will be discussed during the remaining sessions.

The conference runs for four days at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), under the theme ‘Advancing Sustainable Village Development in a Low Carbon Economy’ and it allows the Indigenous leaders to voice their concerns and issues with the President and his cabinet members.