GECOM not in receipt of $2.9B for LGE polls – top official

first_img…says Govt propaganda misleading, out of orderBy Michael YoungeA top official of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Friday denied that Central Government had given the electoral body a whopping $2.9 billion to host Local Government Elections this year.The official’s denial comes on the heels of a statement released by the Government’s Department of Public Information on Thursday, in which it was claimed that “The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been allocated some $2.9B (billion) for the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE) between the beginning of November and early December this year.”That statement elaborated: “The multi-billion-dollar allocation from Central Government demonstrates its unequivocal commitment and determination towards democratic governance, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan said.”The GECOM official has said that if indeed the minister did relate that the sum was allocated by Government to GECOM specifically for the holding of LGE, then there was a deliberate and inexcusable attempt to mislead and misinform the public.“Recall first that GECOM is no longer a budget agency, and does not fall under the purview of the Finance Minister. It was this Government which changed the status of the entity and conferred upon it a new status. We are now a Schedule Three Agency,” the official informed.A Schedule Three agency is a constitutional and independent entity that makes a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund. Their monies are approved by the National Assembly, and can only be adjusted by the Parliament, not any one Minister. The Finance Minister also cannot adjust the monies of the agencies by himself before moving to Parliament. He has moved a motion, and it has to be voted upon.“Secondly, GECOM’s entire budget is $2.9 billion. Does the DPI and Communities Minister expect us to believe that GECOM would spend all of its current and capital allotments solely on the hosting of elections at the local level in November and December?” the official quizzed, before asking where the GECOM would get monies from to handle every other aspect of its operations.“We would be running to Parliament every quarter for supplemental funds to operate outside of the elections,” the senior official said.The official, who has years of experience at the entity, said, “I am not even aware that a budget has been finalized for these elections, and presented to the Commissioners for review and approval.”In fact, according to this official, the Commissioners did not meet for months before the recent controversial appointment of Justice James Patterson.“I am, however, aware that budgetary estimates were prepared and then reduced by the Government side of the Parliament when they were presented for consideration ahead of the 2018 budget,” the official ended.Meanwhile, another source at the Elections Commission has expressed worry that the $3.7 billion allocation sought by GECOM was reduced to $2.9 billion, resulting in $815 million being axed despite Government’s position that if GECOM needed more resources for holding elections, it could come again to the Parliament.“What will be the quality of the voter education project? GECOM has a lot of things to do in order to be fully prepared to deliver free and fair elections, and elections free from fear. GECOM’s right to determine its own financial needs should have been respected, and not second-guessed,” the source remarked.Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan on Thursday reported that the monies allocated by Government pointed to the David Granger Administration’s commitment to local democracy and development. Bulkan said Government was obligated to provide the monies for preparatory work to continue on the polls.Bulkan referred to the need for the Commission to use parts of the money to boost its voter education campaign, while expressing the view that even the local organs need more sensitization on their mandates.According to him, the $2.9 billion allocated to GECOM will include funding for the much-needed voter education.“I will be the first to admit that there is still a great degree of lack of understanding of even what are the responsibilities of local government organs in our engagement and interaction with the public; that there is still this mindset that it is Central Government that is responsible for the conditions in the individual communities.”Local Government Elections were resumed in 2016 after two long years of dormancy.last_img

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