Third District Representative Julian Fraser has said that the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) process has become a mere rubber stamp formality that only sees legislators automatically approving the proposed annual budget without giving proper consideration to what they learn during SFC meetings.
Effectively, the Standing Finance Committee comprises the territory’s legislators who meet with all government departments and statutory bodies annually to examine their operations for the year in review.
“Standing Finance today is far from what it used to be. When we did Standing Finance in the early 2000’s, we actually manipulated the budget. In other words, we went through the budget and we shifted things around based on the discussions we had with department heads and ministries,” Fraser said.
The Opposition legislator said nowadays budgets are brought before the SFC ‘just as a motion’ where no deliberations take place.
“Nothing gets changed, people complain about the lack of resources to execute their mandate, nothing happens they don’t get any more money, they don’t get anything, so it is an exercise,” he said.
Fraser made those comments at a recent media conference after members of the Opposition were asked about the territory experiencing two budgets in a record 10-month period.
In the meantime, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn — who was a member of the previous NDP government — said that the Standing Finance Committee process in the past usually took a month; noting that the 2020 budget was reduced to one and a half weeks.
“The reality is the process was rushed, which is very unfortunate. Our focus was to ensure that the budget process happened. We were given a week and a half to make it happen, we were here, we participated in the process, we made sure that the people of this territory had a budget, we stayed beyond the mandated 9 pm by the Standing Orders to ensure that the budget was passed,” Penn stated.
The 2020 Budget was passed at the Second Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly to the tune of $414,008,611.00.