…after Cabinet instructs $$$ be handed over to NDIAThe Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) administration has taken a decision to write Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan on its disappointment by moves by the Agriculture Ministry to have the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) take over the agriculture budget for that region.Regional Chairman David ArmoganThe decision was made at a special sitting of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) on Wednesday.Regional Chairman David Armogan told the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) that it was a Cabinet decision to have the $114 million from the capital budget transferred to the NDIA.The Region has a capital budget of $221 million for agriculture and of that amount $106 million will be spent to purchase a bulldozer.Armogan also noted that a further $108 million, which represents the current budget, is also to be transferred to the NDIA. The entire agriculture budget for the region is $370 million.He said the administration was informed by a letter from the NDIA of the situation. However, there was no memorandum from Cabinet.Councillor Zamal HussainHe explained that the Region has 18 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and many could not adequately provide all the needed services for residents and as such, the regional administration would include in its budget projects for those NDCs.“These works would have entailed the continuation of the primary drainage system as well as the sluices and other structures that are related to drainage and irrigation. So it is not only clearing of the primary system, it also has to do with sluices…”Armogan also noted that the regional administration has responsibility for drainage and irrigation, outside the declared NDIA cultivation areas.No consultationAddressing the issue, Councillor Zamal Hussain argued that there was no consultation with the RDC on the issue nor was any approval given by the RDC for its budget to be handed over to the NDIA.“It (RDC) is the second-tier government of the governance of this country. It is being constituted by an election with voters from the Region. The people of this region have mandated the Regional Democratic Council to make decisions for them at any level. In any democracy, there should be respect for an elected council,” he noted.He said the NDIA has not been performing as expected in Region Six, adding that several pieces of equipment have been out of service for several months.“The mini-excavators – they have 12 and only one is working. The large excavators, they have six and most of them are down,” Hussain added.He said if the NDIA is allowed to have the regional agriculture budget, hundreds would lose their jobs. These, he added, are persons in the Region who work on the maintenance of canals utilising funds from the current budget.“It is a political move. The RDC needs to wake up and enforce the law.”Hussain added that the RDC would welcome the NDIA to monitor its work, but it must respect the RDC.Cabinet’s decisionAnother Councillor Haseef Yusuf, weighing in on the issue, pointed out that the National Budget was approved in December 2018 and questioned when Cabinet made such a decision, noting that such a decision was in violation of Article 9 of the Constitution.He also quoted President David Granger, who at the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs in July 2018, said that RDCs and NDCs were bound by the Constitution to provide certain services, which include drainage and irrigation.He called on Cabinet to withdraw its decision.“They are trying to hijack the sovereignty of the people of Region Six,” he said.Prime Minister Regional Representative Gobin Harbhajan, in his capacity as a Regional Councillor, told the RDC that he communicated with the Agriculture Minister and the Head of the NDIA, Frederick Flatts prior to the meeting.He said he was told by Flatts that there was a consultation in the Region with the Regional Executive Officer (REO).“I don’t know how it was done … Minister told me that a committee was set up headed by the Minister of Communities, the Minister of Public Works and (Agriculture) Minister (Noel) Holder.”He said the committee came up with two proposals – 1) to have the RDC take care of the entire D&I system or 2) to have the NDIA and Central Government handle the regional D&I system.Both proposals Harbhajan said were presented to Cabinet.Vice Chairman Dennis DeRoop explained that in 2018, the NDIA was unable to give the two Water Users Associations their subventions and as such, it was the RDC that had to chip in.He also noted that the NDIA did not clear any of the three outfall channels along the Corentyne Coast last year, forcing the Region to utilise its savings to undertake that project.Following the debate, a decision was then taken to first pen a letter to the Communities Minister. The RDC has also agreed to write the Agriculture Minister on the issue.