Home Top Stories Delaying tactics – Finance Secretary instructs allocated monies not be transferred for...
…says Secretariat has to wait for Parliament for additional funds
…maintains elections cannot be held before November 2019
Lack of finances and advice given by the Finance Ministry’s Finance Secretary that it could not transfer existing finances, are being cited by a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner against criticisms of the entity’s delaying tactics when it comes to election preparation.
Commissioner Desmond Trotman, who was interviewed by the media after a statutory meeting on Tuesday, was asked about criticism from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding the perceived sloth of GECOM, despite the passage of a No-confidence Motion and the possibility of early elections.
But according to Trotman, persons must also consider the fact that GECOM does not have the requisite funds to speed up preparations.
Trotman pointed out that money still has to be allocated for elections by the National Assembly and further explained that no less than the Finance Ministry’s Finance Secretary advised against transferring funds meant for house-to-house registration, for general election preparations.
“The Commission cannot act in relation to an election, until it has money. So it’s all well and good to say the Commission should always be in a position to carry out elections. But one of the primary things for the Commission to act towards elections is money. The Commission is only given money for elections when elections are held,” Trotman said.
“We sought the advice of the Finance Secretary and the Finance Secretary said to us that the money given for a specific item has got to be used for that item and if it is you require money for elections, you have to go back to Parliament,” he said.
He noted that there are preparations ongoing, including training persons for house-to-house registration. According to Trotman, more than 8000 persons are expected to be trained and the actual exercise is expected to start in the first week of June.
“Well you know that in the 2019 programme, one of the things it has to deal with is the whole question of house-to-house registration. So training is taking place. When the training is finished, they will be putting in place the mechanisms for holding house-to-house registration.”
“In the meantime, there are other things taking place. Procurement of certain materials are happening. And whatever the secretariat can do outside of the Commission’s permission, they are doing.”
But asked about the possibility that GECOM may be called upon by the CCJ to hold elections before November, Trotman reiterated the GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson’s position that elections can only be held by November 2019.
In a letter sent to President David Granger since March 19, 2019, the GECOM Chairman had explained that since the elections body is continuing with its normal work programme; that is, the holding of house-to-house registration, it would need some $3.5 billion to host elections.
In this regard, the GECOM chair said “no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and under the control of GECOM.” And according to Trotman, this position has not changed.
“The Commission has already said, based on information coming from the Secretariat, that elections cannot be held earlier than November, month-end. And the secretariat was hard-pressed to arrive at that date,” Trotman said.
The advice of Finance Secretary Michael Joseph, would fly in the face of the utterances of his own boss, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who had declared to the Assembly that monies allocated to GECOM are lump sums.
Last year, he had announced that $5.4 billion has been allocated in the 2019 Budget for GECOM to hold the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
It has also been suggested that the CCJ could possibly recommend the extension of the life of the previous voters list, which expired in April. According to Trotman, however, it is unclear whether the CCJ can even do this.
While Trotman indicated that GECOM gave the November timeline, this was in fact not a unanimous position. The Opposition nominated Commissioners have long contended that GECOM could work faster and compress activities, to hold elections way before November.
At present, everything hangs in the balance of the CCJ ruling on whether last year’s No-confidence Motion against the coalition was validly passed or not. Should it rule that it was validly passed, it means that elections were constitutionally due since March of this year.