Wednesday 9th March, 2005

 

Green Fund worth $466m...but not in use

 
 
 
 
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Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment Earl Nesbitt makes a point during a meeting of the Joint Select Committee in the Parliament chamber, yesterday.

Photo: Brian Ng Fatt

BY COREY CONNELLY

The Green Fund has a balance of close to $466 million, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment, Earl Nesbitt, revealed yesterday.

He disclosed the figure during a meeting of the Joint Select Committee in the Parliament chamber.

“The sum of $465,932,063.86 represents the current balance of the Green Fund, held in a treasury deposit account,” he told JSC members, replying to a question from chairman Parvatee Anmolsingh-Mahabir.

“This represents the current balance, Madame Chair, as of yesterday’s (Monday) date.”

Yesterday’s meeting—targeting government ministries, statutory bodies and state enterprises—focused on the operations of the Public Utilities Ministry as it related to the Green Fund, Meteorological Services and the Forestry Division.

Nesbitt said while the account was dedicated to the Green Fund, arrangements were being finalised to have the funds transferred to a treasury fund account to coincide with the regulations and to facilitate the commencement of the disbursement of the funds.

Giving an overview of the Green Fund, which was established by the Finance Act of No 91 of 2000 to enable grants to be made to community organisations engaged in activities related to reforestation and conservation of the environment, Nesbitt said a review of the policies governing the management of the fund was undertaken in 2003.

He said this project was conducted by a technical committee appointed by the Ministry of Finance.

“That committee found that the Finance Act 2000 did not provide for proper accountability and transparency in the management of the resources of the fund as should be applicable to all public funds,” he said.

He said Cabinet subsequently agreed that legislative changes be made to facilitate the operations and administration of the fund.

There have been complaints by environmental groups that Government had not been disclosing the status of the fund.

In September 2003, the Tropical Leaf Foundation, headed by Environmentalist Eden Shand, called for the re-establishment of the fund during a protest at Whitehall, Port-of-Spain.

Last year, the American Chamber of Commerce also called for greater disclosure on the status of the fund and its use toward greater environmental performance.

Opposition senator Wade Mark, a JSC member, took the ministry to task for having “such a large sum lying idle while the environment continues to deteriorate.”

Nesbitt said no funds had been distributed to NGO’s and community groups and assured members that the ministry was working apace to re-implement the Green Fund.

 

 

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