It is false to say there are no penalties for misuse of oil monies – Dr. Singh

The notion being peddled that there are no penalties for the misuse of the oil monies is false. The rhetoric which is being circulated was dismissed by Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh M.P. during a press conference on Thursday.

“It is absolutely inaccurate and false to say there are no provisions to govern penalties for misappropriation,” the Minister stated.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh MP

Minister Singh said once the Natural Resource Fund Act is operationalised, all the provisions will also be operationalised.

The Minister first explained that “any single use of the fund, the drawdown of a single dollar from the fund, whether for broad national development or natural disasters, including the emergency financing provision, has to be subject to prior parliamentary approval.”

The Finance Minister explained that this requires either an Appropriation Bill or Supplementary Appropriation Bill to be taken to Parliament for debate and approved. “The Minister of Finance, the incumbent or any successors hereafter, as long as this Bill is enforced, cannot unilaterally go into the fund and draw down a single dollar for the purposes of emergency financing.”

Added to that, all monies approved from the NRF are transferred directly into the consolidated fund.

With that, the Finance Minister detailed that “any misuse of any monies drawn down from the consolidated fund is subject to penalties that are covered under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. These are public monies; they form part of the public finances and all public finances are also subject to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. And that Fiscal Management and Accountability Act has detailed provisions regarding misappropriation of public funds and it assigns penalties to misappropriation of public funds.”

Aside from penalties from the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, the NRF Act itself has a range of penalties and offences. Penalties are given for misleading information, failure to publish information in accordance with the Act, for someone who hinders the exercise of powers and for disclosing confidential information in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Some of the penalties ranges from a fine of $10 million to five years imprisonment.

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