The incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic administration on Friday came under fire from the opposition coalition, for the government’s “persistent abuse of state resources for elections campaigning”.
Co – Chair of the APNU+AFC campaign Committee Joseph Harmon, called “shame” on the government as he spoke about recent revelations that taxpayers money was used by the governing party for its trips to Toronto and New York.
Harmon told News Source that the PPP Civic government has no shame.
“It is what they have been doing all along, they just get catch,” Harmon said, adding that “we have always complained about the government utilizing state resources for their campaign activities, it is unfair and unlawful.”
The Attorney who is also the General Secretary for the APNU, has consistently called out the administration over instances of abuse. He reminded that former President Bharrat Jagdeo who is on the PPP’s list of candidates for the elections, had served as the Head of Mission for a Commonwealth Observer Mission for the Sri Lanka elections and had complained, in his report, about the abuse of state resources by the party that was in government in Sri Lanka.
“But he is doing the same thing here… he is a shameless creature,” Harmon lamented.
Last week, a number of government Ministers joined former President Jagdeo and People’s Progressive Party Prime Ministerial Candidate Elisabeth Harper on fundraising trips to the US and Canada for the PPP’s election campaign.
The trips cost taxpayers over $2.6 Million although the events during the trips were all political events for the PPP. Harmon believes this is precisely why Guyanese will vote the PPP/C out of office in the upcoming elections.
Mr. Jagdeo was accompanied to Canada by Minister of Tourism, Housing and Water Irfaan Ali where the two hosted and attended fundraising events while Ms. Harper traveled to New York and met up with Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud for campaign meetings and fundraising events there. Ms. Harper was accompanied by her husband and a special assistant.
The two teams met up in New York on Saturday and both Jagdeo and Harper attended a fundraising dinner in Queens. News Source understands that the trips to Canada and New York were both funded through a Ministry of Tourism Diaspora programme that was presented to the Cabinet last week and got full approval.
Questioned about the issue on Wednesday at his weekly press briefing, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said “You can’t expect that these activities conducted by officials and leading to expenditure of public funds would not be graced by a cabinet decision”.
While ignoring that the trips were political rather than official, Dr. Luncheon said “If you ask me it would be highly improper to spend public finds in that context without a cabinet decision,” “You have to have a cabinet decision for officials to spend government money”, he argued.
When he was pressed about the appropriateness of the government using taxpayers money to fund campaign events for the People’s Progressive Party, the Cabinet Secretary sought to dismiss the question and stated that “this occasion for responding to that question is inappropriate… The issue of whether it is an appropriate expenditure might be entertained by the Auditor General, the Public Accounts Committee and such bodies but at the end of the day you have to have cabinet approval to spend the government money”.
Harmon fears that reporting these instances of abuse to the Guyana Elections Commission –GECOM – would bear little fruit to discourage the PPP/C administration and argued that their removal from executive office is necessary.
Members of the APNU+AFC coalition have consistently been raising concern about the abuse of government resources by the governing party for its election campaign. APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate David Granger said the “abuse” has created a situation where political parties outside of the government are at a disadvantage and therefore while the elections might be free, it is unlikely that the elections will be considered fair.