$783M for Local Government Elections as $4.1B approved for GECOM
A sum of more than $4.1 billion ($4,161,996,000) has been approved for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by the National Assembly during the consideration of the 2022 Budget Estimates on Monday.
Importantly, of that amount, $783 million has been allocated for Local Government Elections (LGE).
On Friday last, the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall assured Guyanese that these constitutionally-due elections would be held this year since budgetary allocations have been made.
This allocation was the subject of much questioning in the House on Monday with Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira pointing out that there is no “lump sum” for the LGE; instead, sums for this are spread across various line items.
For example, under wages and salaries, about $583 million has been allocated for the payment of more than 10,000 temporary staff who will be hired during the LGE period.
She also noted that money has been allocated for increased security services, the renting of containers to store ballot papers and the publication of advertisements for the elections in all print media.
Opposition Parliamentarian David Patterson pressed the minister on whether specific sums had been allocated for a new voter’s list, contending that this is much-needed ahead of the elections.
Teixeira, however, explained that a new voter’s list is not a budgetary issue. Rather, it is one that GECOM’s Chairman and its commissioners have to make a decision on.
“When the Commissioners and the Chairman make a decision on when LGE will be held, the processes of claims and objections and continuous registration will commence,” Teixeira said too.
The claims and objections period allows persons, who will become 18 years old (the age when they can start voting) by the end of an identified period before the elections to be registered.
Individuals who have had changes in their particulars, including addresses and names can also utilise the period to make the necessary adjustments.
Monies were also allocated in the 2021 Budget for LGE but those elections were not held, as top government officials maintained that issues at GECOM needed to be fixed.
Among the issues was the need for replacements for top GECOM staff including the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and his Deputy Roxane Myers. Lowenfield and Myers had been fired.
Vishnu Persaud was subsequently appointed as the country’s new CEO in December. Other key positions including that of the Deputy CEO, the Assistant CEO and Logistics Manager have not yet been filled.
Meanwhile, off the overall sum approved for GECOM, $4.04 billion has been allocated for current expenditures while $120 million was allocated for capital expenditures.
Under capital spending, $45 million will be going towards a registration office at Port Kaituma in Region One. New vehicles- including two boats, one all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and a few land cruisers- are being bought as well.
For context, current expenditures refer to the spending needed for day-to-day management and operations. Capital expenditures refer to the spending on new assets that are expected to provide long term benefits.
GECOM is a constitutional agency. The approval of these estimates for the constitutional bodies came after amendments to the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMAA) Act were signed into law by President Dr. Irfaan Ali at the end of 2021.
These amendments were touted as mechanisms to strengthen and streamline the budget process for Constitutional Agencies and simultaneously preserve the independence of those agencies.