In the National Assembly ‒ Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment |23 March 2021
Three more budget allocations approved
Carrying on from last week, the National Assembly yesterday approved the budgets for agencies falling under the purview of the Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert.
Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) gave the green light to the National Biosecurity Agency (R28,628,000), Seychelles Energy Commission (R107,318,000) and the National Botanical Gardens Foundation (R11,843,000).
Represented by its chief executive, Marc Naiken, the National Biosecurity Agency (NBA) was seeking a budget of R28,628,000, a R1 million plus increase from last year’s revised budget of R27,189,000.
Minister Joubert explained that the increase accounts for the recruitment of four additional animal welfare technicians in line with the new Dogs Control Act which expects to come into force on April 1, 2021.
“I have given instructions that the Dog Control Act should start being implemented and should come into effect on April 1 this year, and the legal officers and the Office of the Attorney General are working to publish its commencement notice[…],” added Minister Joubert.
In response to queries from the representative for Takamaka, MNA Terence Mondon, Mr Naiken noted that the NBA is expecting to gain a revenue of R1.5 million from April to the end of 2021 from the fees that will be placed on registration of dogs.
“We do have a component of our programme this year that will look at public awareness in regards to the Dog Control Act. There are different components to this education programme including sterilisation and registration of dogs, payment of fees and how to go about them. We will also have a campaign to microchip all dogs in the country and public awareness is key in implementing these,” stated Mr Naiken.
Touching on concerns on budget provisions for travel expenses, Mr Naiken explained that this will go towards the payment of airplane tickets for several Cuban technicians who are working with the NBA under a Cuba-Seychelles cooperation programme but whose contracts are coming to an end this year.
The officials from the NBA also spoke of challenges such as the shortage of specialists such as entomologist, phyto-pathologist and qualified veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals to competently and fully perform the responsibilities of animal and plant health service. Minister Joubert noted that the government is looking to find a beneficial cooperation programme with other countries, preferably less expensive than the Cuba-Seychelles cooperation, to assist the NBA with much needed manpower.
The NBA’s budget received 29 votes in its favour, one abstention and no vote against.
The agency was followed by the Seychelles Energy Commission (SEC) with a budget of R107,318,000. This is a staggering increase from its more humble budget of R5,626,000 last year.
“Seychelles Energy Commission’s wages and salaries have gone up by R495,000 and this is due to new recruitments; while goods and services went down by R0.965 million. The component that has brought the great increase in the commission’s budget and which drove it up to R107 million is the grants being made available for two projects ‒ one funded by the Chinese government and the other by India,” explained Minister Joubert.
In regards to instances of abuse on SEC’s resources picked up in the Auditor General’s report, such as use of state vehicle after working hours, its chief executive Tony Imaduwa acknowledged that there are a lot of challenges at SEC.
“Yes, staff use the vehicle after hours and I give them permission to do so, but it has nothing to do with them just receiving the authorisation to go home but staff have commitments such as workshops or meetings to attend and these go beyond working hours. So instead of bringing the transport back in the evening I give them permission to go home with it and bring it back the following day,” justified Mr Imaduwa.
He added that SEC is working to ensure that these authorisations are given in a more formal manner, instead of just verbal.
“The CEO is the only one who gets a transport allowance and I have also put this to the attention of the auditor, and they have told me that I should not be driving SEC’s vehicle since I receive an allowance. I relayed that this does not make sense because how is it OK for a staff to drive me to a meeting in that transport but when I’m driving a staff in the same vehicle then it is not appropriate. Most staff members at SEC do not have a driving license and I usually end up with the driving duties since we do not have a driver,” further clarified Mr Imaduwa.
The National Assembly voted unanimously for SEC’s budget.
Last to come before the National Assembly yesterday, the National Botanical Gardens Foundation’s R11,834,000 was also unanimously approved with a total of 34 votes in favour.
The foundation was represented by its chief executive Raymond Brioche.
“Last year’s budget for the National Botanical Gardens Foundation was R13,566,000 and this year it has been reduced to R11,834,000 which represents a reduction of R1.7 million,” noted Minister Joubert.
The foundation has also seen a reduction in its revenue in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, observed principal secretary for finance, Damien Thésée, whereby it only made R3.5 million compared to R7.5 million in 2019 when the tourism industry was booming.