Additional funding for GECOM must be approved by Cabinet-Finance Minister

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THE resignation of the Cabinet, as ordered by the Chief Justice following the no-confidence vote, has resulted in a challenge to securing funding for the holding of general and regional elections. It was explained to the Chronicle, by Finance Minister Winston Jordan, that whilst funds were allocated to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) via Budget 2019, these were solely for use during the scheduled ‘House to House’ registration exercise.

He explained that the National Assembly is still in session and the government still has a majority. This means that bills can be passed, except the Financial Bill. This is due to the fact that Article 171 of the Constitution states that the legislation must have the recommendation of the Cabinet before such a bill can be tabled. “That’s stalled”, the minister noted, “because there is no Cabinet. I wish the public would understand the implications of that ruling because it also means that GECOM cannot get new moneys.”

Minister Jordan noted that as much as President Granger has announced that he is willing to give GECOM the money to finance the election, “under the present circumstances, GECOM cannot get any new money from the National Assembly because we can’t carry that bill to the National Assembly, and the money allocated is for ‘House to House’ registration.”
Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, who is representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, has disagreed with contentions that Cabinet and the National Assembly are required to approve some GYD$3 billion to fund general and regional elections. According to the Opposition MP, the Constitution allows for the money to be drawn from the Contingency Fund, after which the finance minister would seek parliamentary approval when the National Assembly convenes following elections, and a new government is sworn in.

The opposition leader, last week, told President Granger that he would not agree to extend the life of the government unless an election date was selected. After meeting with GECOM officials, President Granger described the voters’ list as bloated and urged the commissioners to “find a way of addressing their differences.”

The three pro-coalition elections commissioners are demanding that house-to-house registration be conducted to ensure the voters’ list does not contain the names of emigrants and deceased persons and people are registered in their current places of residence. On the other hand, the three opposition elections commissioners are insisting that elections be conducted using the existing voters’ list which expires on April 30, 2019.

GECOM is preparing to conduct a new round of continuous registration and claims and objections; process, which has not found favour with the PPP’s commissioners.