Minister of Finance Colm Imbert moves the second reading of The Finance (Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2022, during the sitting of the Senate, yesterday.

The COVID-19 pandemic and requisite school closures led to an unused Government Assistance for Tertiary Education (GATE) allocation of $81.6 million in 2020.

That credit was added to the $400 million allocated for 2021 which meant some $481.6 million was available for GATE funding.

Both Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Vice-President of the Senate Nigel DeFreitas were forced to remind two previous speakers about the narrow ambits of the Finance (Variation of Appropriation) Bill which was debated yesterday in the Senate.

Imbert said that even though the details of the debate were circulated to Senators, they seemed to misunderstand that money was taken from several ministries but only the Ministry of Finance.

“I just want to make the point that information circulated to honourable senators regarding the transfer of funds between sub-heads has absolutely nothing to do with the matter before the Senate,” Imbert said.

He also corrected the record about funding being removed from the Ministry for Agriculture to supplement the other heads. The debate yesterday looked at the Judiciary, the Personnel Department and the Ministry of Social Development.

“No money was taken from the Ministry of National Security, no money was taken from the Ministry of Health, no money was taken from the Ministry Agriculture or any of the Ministries mentioned in the document that gave for the information of the Senators,” Imbert said.

“What we are about today (yesterday) is looking at the transfer of funds from six sub-items in sub-head 18, the Ministry of Finance only,” Imbert said.

Imbert said that money was only taken from the Ministry of Finance and “nowhere else.”

“The contribution of Senator Lyder was completely unwarranted, unfounded, baseless and without any merit whatsoever,” Imbert said.

Imbert said that when he listened to some contributions by some Opposition senators, he wondered if they were aware of the pandemic.

“In 2021, there were a number of restrictions that affected the operations of tertiary level institutions,” he said explaining the increase in GATE.

He said that the excess funding could now be re-deployed into funding social grants and pension.

“But at no time was there thousands of students being denied assistance for GATE. That is just preposterous. All of the requirements for GATE all of the funding for GATE for fiscal 2021 was satisfied,” he said. The increased allocation to the Judiciary, Imbert said, is to expand its operations. Imbert said that, while all Ministries have been directed to live within their allocation and manage its expenses, the Judiciary, Personnel Department and Social Development needed more allocations.