GECOM’s budget yet to be released to agency – Shadick
– says act breaches law, intended to frustrate election preparations
In a letter to the President, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman claimed that the agency needed $3.5 billion to start preparations for elections. Yet it has millions that were budgeted for them but not disbursed and no articulate plan for spending the money.
This is according to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) nominated Commissioner, Bibi Shadick, who was at the time speaking during a press conference called after another botched meeting at GECOM on Tuesday.
“From $2 billion for ordinary elections, it has gone to $3.5 billion. And their plan is to hold it after house-to-house registration, for which they have $3.5 billion. So that money is there. So what is this money for? Nobody can tell me.”
“Now this is a Chairman asking for $3.5 billion extra to what they got, that was appropriated but never disbursed to GECOM, contrary to law. According to the CEO, every quarter they have to request. And that’s not for constitutional agencies, which have all their money.”
According to Shadick, over $5 billion was appropriated for GECOM in the National Assembly. At the time, none other than Finance Minister Winston Jordan had declared to the Assembly that the money would be a lump sum to be used by the Commission.
The Commissioner noted that this indicates that there was never any sincere plan to hold elections. Shadick said that GECOM has been deliberately dragging its feet at every turn. Shadick also revealed that the secretariat deliberately took little to no steps to update the voters’ list and is now claiming that there is too little time for logistical preparations.
She observed that GECOM has two main functions; to hold elections and to register electors. According to Shadick, GECOM has failed miserably in both of its constitutional mandates, particularly considering the soon to be elapsed 90-day timeline. Efforts to contact officials from the Finance Ministry were futile.
Last year, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had announced that $5.4 billion has been allocated in the 2019 Budget for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to hold the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
During his budget presentation in the National Assembly that afternoon, Jordan explained that of this amount, nearly 3 billion will go towards preparations for the elections which are constitutionally due by August 2020.
In reference to the poor voter turnout at the most recent Local Government Elections, he had said that this is an indication of the low level of confidence citizens have in the Local Government system, which all stakeholders should work to address.
Despite the availability of cash, calls have been made by various stakeholders including foreign diplomats here for the Government to abide by the Constitution and set a date for elections since the December 21, 2018, passage of the motion of no-confidence against the APNU/AFC coalition,
Recently, British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn in an exclusive interview with Guyana Times reminded that the clock is ticking on the constitutional three-month deadline for holding elections. This observation was repeated just a few days ago.
Additionally, representatives from the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) have also echoed similar calls in February for the Guyana Government to adhere to the Constitution.
The Opposition, People’s Progressive Party (PPP), has already written several international bodies and representatives asking that they do not recognise the coalition Government after March 21 if there is no extension.