Over $750M budgeted for Local Govt Elections this year

…$300M+ budgeted for goods, services, security, other expenses

By Jarryl Bryan

Over $750 million has been set aside in Budget 2022 for the preparations to be undertaken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for the hosting of Local Government Elections (LGE) this year.
This money is part of an overall $4.1 billion allocation to GECOM in Budget 2022 and was examined and approved by the National Assembly during its consideration of the 2022 Budget Estimates on Monday.
Included in the $783 million for LGE is an over $300 million increase in “other goods and services purchased”, which jumped from $250.8 million in 2021 to $575.9 million in the 2022 budget.
When quizzed by Opposition Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan on whether this increase would be spent on a voters’ list, Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira explained that this money would go towards LGE.

Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira during questioning on Monday

“The issue of other goods and services purchased, increasing from $250 million to $575 million, relates to the preparation of Local Government Elections and the services that would be required for that.”
“However, with regards to the question about a new voters’ list, that is not a budgetary issue. That is an issue for the Commission and the Chairman has to make a decision on and if they so desire, then budgetary matters will fall into place,” Teixeira explained, noting that this decision has so far not been made.
Teixeira further explained that the increase will cater for expenses related to security, equipment maintenance, procuring containers, and storing sensitive election materials related to holding the elections.
“Under goods and services, it includes security services which would be increased because of Local Government Elections. The equipment maintenance will go up sizeable, because it has to do with the preparation of the elections, cleaning and extermination, COVID and other… includes areas of rental of backup generators, containers to store ballot papers, and the publication of ads in the print media about the electoral process and to create public awareness and storage of all the sensitive election material,” she explained.
Under further questioning, it was also revealed by Teixeira that GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh’s salary is an estimated $2.4 million, while the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud gets $1.4 million.
It was only recently that GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj had confirmed that LGE, which was supposed to be held in 2021, is on track to be held this year. In fact, Gunraj said that a roadmap is being prepared towards achieving this.
In December 2021, the GECOM Chair had written Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall to confirm that the electoral body would be unable to hold Local Government Elections in 2021.

The Guyana Elections Commission

She had explained that since the Commission was currently without a Chief Elections Officer, who by law is required to manage the conduct of elections in Guyana, GECOM was “unable” to have the elections held at that point in time. However, after a rigorous process, GECOM has since hired Vishnu Persaud as the new CEO.
GECOM still has to fill the posts of Deputy CEO and other senior management vacancies.
LGEs are constitutionally due every two years in Guyana, and were last held in 2018. However, given the fiasco that played out following the 2020 General and Regional Elections, the local Government polls were deferred to 2021.
At the last LGE in November 2018, the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition had secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs). This followed the holding of the LGE in 2016, during which the PPP/C also claimed the majority of the LAAs.