– urged to come up with workable solutions; improve agency performancesThe first of the budget sessions for 2019 opened with Finance Minister Winston Jordan confronting programme heads and questioning why allocations to certain agencies are being increased but improved results are not evident.On Friday, budget 2019’s sensitisation and training programme kicked off at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre with Jordan reading the riot act to various heads of budget agencies, permanent secretaries and regional heads.He questioned the reason for the lack of performance from certain ministries. For instance, he noted, the increased allocations to the health sector has seen continued drug shortages. He also made reference to the performance of the education sector and the Public Infrastructure Ministry.“Why do we have increasing allocations to the health sector but continued drug shortages and less hospital inspections than previous years? Health accounts for 12.5 per cent of the national budget, in 2018. What intervention within the budget proposal will resolve this conundrum of increasing allocations but declining availability?“Why do we have increasing allocations to education but still less than 50 per cent of our children as passing Math and English? Education accounts for 17.2 per cent of the national budget in 2018. What in the budget proposal will resolve this?” Jordan questioned.“Why do we have increasing allocations for maintenance and infrastructure development, yet our Public Sector Infrastructure Programme is filled with requests to rehabilitate existing infrastructure?”What these things could point to is inefficient management, something Jordan acknowledged. The Minister urged them to do introspection and critique their systems. This means, according to Jordan, offering workable solutions.“Are you, as Heads of Budget Agencies, approving performance-based gratuities without measuring performance? Or worse, are you signing off on poor performance and shying away from your responsibility to take decisions in the best interest of achieving desired results? Are you putting pen to paper when staff do not deliver, or (are you) simply sitting lamenting in your offices?”The workshop is of two-day duration, at the end of which these technocrats are expected to be better equipped to formulate their budget requests. Government is known for cutting agency budget requests. Last year it used its majority to push millions of dollars in budget cuts through the National Assembly.According to the 2018 annual budget proposals of constitutional agencies which were tabled in Parliament, the Audit Office’s request for $844.4 million was slashed to a proposal of $783.8 million. In slashing the amount, it was noted that Budget 2018’s submission did not fulfil certain requirements set out in a budget circular.The fact that the Government was cutting the requested capital sums of $19.9 million to $14 million from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) provoked a firestorm between the Government side and the Opposition.Cuts to the Office of the Ombudsman, Indigenous People’s Commission, the Women and Gender Equality Commission and the Public Procurement Commission were also passed by the House.Other agencies on the chopping block for 2018 were the Parliament Office, the GECOM, the Supreme Court of Judicature (request of $2.7 billion was reduced to $1.8 billion), the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (request for $223.8 billion was reduced to $174.2 billion) and the Office of the Ombudsman.