With the possibility of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) impending ruling finding that the No-confidence Motion against the coalition Government was validly passed on December 21, 2018, thus paving the way for General and Regional Elections to be held, the National Assembly on Thursday approved some $3.482 billion to assist the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in preparing for the upcoming polls.
But Finance Minister Winston Jordan, during the consideration of Financial Paper One of 2019 totalling in excess of $7.9 billion, pointed out to the Committee of Supply that the additional monies approved for the elections body are not in anticipation of the impending CCJ decision.
“This provision, I want to say today, is not in anticipation of anything that the CCJ may or may not say or decide on. It is one in keeping with the President’s [David Granger] commitment even before the matter went to the CCJ, after the Guyana Elections Commission Chairman [Justice James Patters] wrote to him, requesting funding for the actual holding of elections. He had committed to giving the Elections Commission the resources for the conduct of those elections,” Jordan told the Committee before $3.3 billion was approved under current expenditure.
This funding will go towards “additional cost of conducting General and Regional Elections”. This includes areas such as education subventions and training – $113.4 million; transport, travel and postage – $409.5 million; fuel and lubricants – $35.4 million; rental of buildings – $82 million; utility charges – $31.9 million; other good services $616.9 million, and other operating expenses – $1.5 billion.
Meanwhile, the Committee of Supply on Thursday also approved an additional $182.3 million for GECOM’s elections preparations. This money will be used to cover the elections body’s capital expenditure in becoming ready for the upcoming polls. It will facilitate, among other things, the upgrading of the Multiple Identity Document Issuing System, which is used to produce the National Identification (ID) card. Upgrading this system will result in better quality ID cards and will reduce downtime of the machines.
Additionally, the monies will also cover the purchase of three Toyota 4×4 pick-up vehicles at a cost of $13.3 million each to be used to traverse interior locations to conduct elections. Moreover, four All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and two boats along with engines also are all being bought at $4 million each for the same purpose. Other costs includes the purchase of office furniture such as desks, chairs and filing cabinets, as well as a power surge protectors and tents.
According to Minister Jordan, these supplementary funds are more than 99 per cent of what GECOM had initially requested and will go towards putting GECOM in a state of readiness financially for the upcoming polls.
“These monies will be made available to the Elections Commission for them to start the process of the elections proper. I think many people would’ve heard the advertisements already in relation to the house-to-house [registration]… Now this money is being provided to the meat of the transactions,” he posited.
Minister Jordan further stated that the elections are very costly, noting, “In addition to the $5.371 billion that had been voted, now have an additional 3.5 billion roughly being voted (for and) bringing the total sum to almost $9 billion and counting for the elections that are constitutionally due in 2020… So this is nothing else but in keeping with the President’s commitment to GECOM.”
However, the Finance Minister had explained last week after tabling the Financial Paper that the money is just in case GECOM should need it. The elections body has contended that it needed additional resources including funding in order to prepare for elections earlier than 2020. But Jordan said if there are no early elections, then the additional money approved would not be used.
The $3,482,344 in supplementary funding to GECOM was approved by the coalition Members of Parliament (MPs) in the absence of the Opposition parliamentarians.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has vowed to stay away from parliamentary proceedings until the hearing and determination of the matters before the CCJ.
The Trinidad-based regional court is currently deliberating on several appeals asking it to overturn the Guyana Court of Appeal’s March ruling which invalidated the passage of the Opposition-tabled motion of no confidence against the coalition Government.
The CCJ is being asked to throw out the Appeal Court ruling and uphold the High Court’s January decision that the motion was validly passed and as such Government should resign and call elections.
Earlier this month, the CCJ panel heard submissions from the parties and is expected to hand down its decision in the coming weeks.