Revision of NRF Act testament of govt’s commitment to transparency, accountability − Min Bharrat

The PPP/C Government continues to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels of government. The revision and subsequent amendment of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act was a clear indicator of this stance.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, made this statement as he defended the 2023 National Budget on Thursday.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat

The amended act, approved by the National Assembly in December 2021, sought to dismantle the previous framework enacted by the ‘A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change’ (APNU+AFC) coalition—which entrusted sole authority to manage the NRF to the finance minister.

Instead, this government allowed for the fund’s management by a Board of Directors, which is responsible for reviewing and approving the policies of the fund and monitoring its performance, thereby completely separating the management of the fund from the minister responsible for finance.

“We have revised the Natural Resource Fund Act to ensure that the minister reports to parliament within three months, all the revenue flowing into the Natural Resources Fund account. And if the minister does not report to the National Assembly, there is a penalty of 10 years in jail. And that is accountability,” Minister Bharrat posited.

This, he said, would avoid situations like the diversion of the US$18 million signing bonus from the consolidated fund by the APNU+AFC.

“We are serious about transparency and accountability. And today, every single Guyanese will know how much money will flow from the natural resources account into the national budget. That is transparency. That is accountability,” Minister Bharrat added.

With 102 lifts of crude oil from the floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels offshore Guyana, the balance of the NRF at the end of 2022 totalled some USD $1.271 billion.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, revealed this on January 16 during his tabling of the 2023 budget, under the theme “Improving Lives Today, Building Prosperity Tomorrow”.

The balance displayed a 52.2 per cent increase when compared to the US$607.6 million balance of the fund at the end of 2021, representing upward fiscal mobility of some USD $664.2 million.