…Finance Minister commits to facilitate funding for March polls
By Lisa Hamilton
THE Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) can expect to get any additional funding it may need for the coming elections in early 2020 and this will be facilitated by the Finance Ministry, subject minister Winston Jordan has said.
He said this was catered for in the Constitution.
Minister Jordan told the Guyana Chronicle on Wednesday that the ministry has been in correspondence with the Commission and it can rest assured that funding will be provided. “I have written them and indicated that we will provide the funding as required in 2020,” Minister Jordan said.
“It doesn’t require Parliament…the Constitution provides for the kind of funding that GECOM needs without going to Parliament and, eventually when the  budget is passed, it will include the funding that we gave them.”
The elections body has already received over $8 billion between November of 2018 and April of this year. As part of the National Budget for 2019, GECOM was allocated $5.546B – this sum, however, was supplemented with an additional $3.482B in May, 2019, after the commission indicated to the President that it lacked the financial resources to facilitate early elections.
However, the additional funds requested in May were under the prospect that elections could be held in 2019. It was budgeted for ‘current projects’ and was to be used primarily for the payment of wages and salaries for polling day staff; the purchase of print and non-print materials; local travel and subsistence; the purchase of drugs and medical supplies and field materials and supplies. GECOM has also budgeted for food and security services among other important materials and services.
It was explained to this newspaper that while such funding exists, the Commission cannot simply shift it over for use in 2020 but must return the unused amount to the government at the fiscal year ending December 31, 2019.
Coming out of GECOM’s statutory meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Sase Gunraj had put forward that GECOM has more than enough funding to meet the needs of the March 2, 2020 elections. “As far as I am aware, yes, GECOM has $8 billion at its disposal,” he said.
However, Commissioner Alexander said that while the Commission does not have a problem with insufficient funding currently, should it lack funding it still has time to approach the government. The Commission has not yet stated how much funding it may require. Jordan said that it still has time to assess same between now and the new year.
He explained: “We will ensure that they get the funding between January and February. They will need funding because they can’t use all the funding that was provided in 2019 —that is what they have indicated to us. So, they will be sending back some amount of the funding that we’ve made available because the funding was made available to them on the understanding that the elections might have been held in 2019. But now with elections as March 2, 2020, they will need funding for January and February, maybe March also, because after the elections, people still have to be paid.”
Meanwhile, President David Granger has long indicated that government will not interfere with the work of the Commission but will provide it with all it needs to conduct free, fair and credible elections.