$1.1B for LGE but no money for House-to-House registration in Budget
One week after the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall announced that Local Government Elections (LGE) will be held this year, it was revealed on Wednesday that $1.1 billion has been allocated for those elections in the 2021 National Budget.
Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira, disclosed the sum as the House Committee of Supply considered the total $4 billion expenditure for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in the budget.
But with $1.1 billion of the $4 billion going to LGE, Teixeira said that no monies have been allocated for House-to-House registration.
“There is nothing in the budget to prepare for House-to-House registration to compile a new voters list,” the minister said.
The current voters’ list expired in January 2021. Using the voters’ list of 2018, when LGE was last held, some 500,000 ballot papers are to be printed for the 2021 local elections while $237.7 million has been set aside for the printing of materials.
Opposition Parliamentarian, David Patterson, objected to the printing of 500,000 ballot papers, pointing out that the 2018 turnout for the local elections was below 40 per cent, and so, that much ballot paper was not needed.
But Teixeira defended the allocation and the printing of the 500,000 ballot papers, explaining that regardless of the turnout, ballot papers need to be printed for all persons eligible to vote. She said provisions needed to be made for instances of spoilt and otherwise unusable ballots.
Meanwhile, a further breakdown of the $1.1 billion for LGE in 2021 shows that $32.8 million is allocated for fuel and lubricants and $81.6 million for the rental of private buildings.
Teixeira said there are to be some 17,000 polling stations established for LGE, of which mostly public buildings will be used. Additionally, there is $75.6 million budgeted for travel and subsistence for polling day staff and $9.9 million for regular distribution of Identification (ID) Cards.
Another $26.4 million has been allocated for telephone charges, which will go towards purchasing minutes for Presiding Officers and Field Staff. Monies for refreshments and meals is pegged at $89.1 million for Election Day staff and $18 million for the training of 8,500 persons.
The Minister of Local Government and Regional Development has the responsibility to announce the date for these elections after consultations with GECOM.
The Local Government Minister recently supported sentiments expressed by President Irfaan Ali and other senior members of the government that before those elections are held, GECOM needs to be fixed.
Dharamlall had said those GECOM officials currently before the courts on charges of electoral fraud will need to be removed from the electoral body in order for Guyanese to have confidence in the process.
He had singled out the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, in making his point. But also, before the Court is Lowenfield’s Deputy, Roxanne Myers and District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo.
Dharamlall had said he is excited about the hosting of LGE, noting that the elections will expose how Guyanese all across Guyana, including supporters of the APNU+AFC Coalition, are dissatisfied with its performance.