It’s the Law—Stupid!

From left: Internal Security Minister Guy Mayers, Prime Minister Stephenson King and Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou at a handing over ceremony for vehicles to the Royal St Lucia Police Force.

So devious are lawmakers that as soon as the words “unless”, “except”, or “not being” occur, you know that loopholes, not oil, are being drilled for.
(I slipped in the “oil” bit, because, Dear Reader, both you and I know the Consolidated Fund fun is merely a ploy to detract us from the more serious Grynberg Affair).
Take, for example, the legislation regarding Consolidated Funds.
Did you notice I used the plural “Funds”? You see, the law does not refer to THE consolidated fund; it says that only moneys that are “not being payable . . . into some other fund established for specific purpose shall be paid into and form a Consolidated Fund.
You see, it’s the indefinite, not the definite article. But let’s look a little closer. I quote:
Finance  77 Consolidated Fund: All revenues or other moneys raised or received by Saint Lucia (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under any law for the time being in force in Saint Lucia, into some other fund established for specific purpose) shall be paid into and form a Consolidated Fund.
How is “St Lucia” defined? Probably Government is part of “St Lucia”, but is, for example, a “town council” also “St Lucia”? Is a local charity “St Lucia”? Is a school “St Lucia”? What about local clubs, associations, and churches?
Are, by definition, all donations from home and abroad to be viewed as “ received by St Lucia”, no matter what or who the intended recipient is?
Is the size of the donation important? Must every tourist who gives a beggar a dollar first deposit it into a consolidated fund? Is the source of the donation important? Can the European Union pay directly to its intended recipients while other donors are expected to put their money into a consolidated fund?
How, for example, does the Ministry of Education deal with the EC 18 Million received from the EU? It is my impression that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education is the one who signs the checks for disbursement, but I may be wrong.
That’s an interesting point, actually. How do moneys, once swallowed up by a consolidated fund, ever escape? It seems to me that there has to be a specific law that deals with every payment. Just look!
78 Withdrawals from Consolidated Fund or other public funds.
(1) No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except-
a) to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by this Constitution or by any law enacted by parliament; or
b) where the issue of those moneys has been authorized by an appropriation law or by law made in pursuance of section 80 of this Constitution.
(2) Where any moneys are charged by this Constitution or any law enacted by Parliament upon the Consolidated Fund or any other public fund, they shall be paid out of that fund by the Government to the person or authority to whom payment is due.
(3) No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund other than the Consolidated Fund unless the issue of those moneys has been authorized by or under any law.
(4) There shall be such provision as may be made by parliament prescribing the manner in which withdrawals may be made from the Consolidated Fund or nay other public fund.
Gosh, what a lot of laws!
(By the way, I have retained the original spelling and punctuation errors in quotes from this legislation, as they might affect the interpretation of the law, but it is a sloppily written bit of English).
It does not seem very efficient, does it? Anyone hoping to get donated moneys out of a consolidated fund will either have to find a law that allows for payments or wait until parliament has enacted a new law to fit the situation.
Is it not much better to pay the money to the specific recipient in a transparent, open, efficient way?
Or do our politicians have a more devious reason for burying the money in their consolidated fund?
79 Authorisation of expenditure from Consolidated Fund by appropriation law:
(1) The Minister for the time being responsible for finance shall cause to be prepared an laid before the House before, or not later than thirty days after, the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of Saint Lucia for that financial year.
Of course, as article 79 says, you can wait and hope that your money will be included in the annual budget and take your chances that it will be paid out.
Of course, only confirmed gamblers would count on money from a consolidated fund when (as the law states, albeit in a more elegant form) the government screws up and finds it does not have enough money to pay its bills it can rob the consolidated fund to get it out of a deep financial hole. I quote:
Funds may be appropriated from the Consolidated fund “ if. . . it is found that the amount appropriated by the appropriation law . . . is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose to which no amount has been appropriated . . . or that any moneys have been expended for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated”.
In other words, Brother, a Consolidated Fund is not a bank. They can plunder it whenever they feel a bit short!
You begged for help for your community, asked for assistance with a bridge, needed support for a grass roots project, needed urgent aid for medical facilities in your district—the list goes on—and Taiwan stepped in to help, where do you want your money, in your hand or in a consolidated fund that politicians can plunder whenever they run short?
Suppose civil servants w
ent on strike, just suppose, and a government, any government, needed to appease them with a wage hike, where do you think they would get the money from? The consolidated money pit, of course: It’s the law – Stupid!
“The Minister for the time being responsible for finance may authorize the withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of meeting expenditure necessary to carry of the services of the Government”.
We all know that “there is no such thing as free meal”. Well, Folks, there is no so thing as a free Rip Off, either, but money in a consolidated fund can disappear in many quite legal ways too. How about this one?
“All debt charges for which Saint Lucia is liable shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund. For the purposes of this section debt charges include interest, sinking fund charges, the repayment or amortization of debt and all expenditure in connection with the raising of loans”
The rate at which governments borrow money means that any donations from Taiwan are likely to end up as interest payments to the World Bank!
Does any fair-minded person really dispute a donor’s right to contribute to the welfare of the communities and organizations of this country with the assurance that the money will be used in projects for which the money was intended?
Even the prison, that poor child of society, suffers from the effects of a consolidated fund. The prison has a tuck shop. All profits from the tuck shop disappear into the fund. Fine, you might say, let them pay back something. On the other hand, if the prison could use the profits from the tuck shop and the sales of its farm produce to help offset its expenses, society would be better off.
I have been there, done that. Outdated, Communist style economies where all moneys accrue to the State for benevolent disbursal at the whims of their leaders have no place in our limited economy where every cent counts and every community has to fight for help—direct, undiluted help—wherever it can find it.
Look into any pit. Stare into any well. Peer into any pond. Anything more than a few inches below the surface is invisible. So it is with a consolidated fund.
What happened to transparency?
The Ambassador from Taiwan, without whose help this country could scarcely function, hands over a cheque, in full view of the whole world, to a representative
for a deserving, grass root project and the hounds in Kenny’s Crusade begin to howl.
Maybe they too would like to share a bone, but don’t know how, or have been forbidden, to ask politely.

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