Opposition slams Govt for bad advice to GECOM

first_img…says law caters for election body to receive cash lump sum…no need for permission from Finance Ministry…as Govt tables $3.4B supplementary paperThe Opposition People’s Progressive Party on Wednesday slammed the Government for bad advice it gave to Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) when Finance Secretary Michael Joseph informed the body that the billions it received in the Budget last year for house-to-house registration could not be transferred for normal election preparation.On Tuesday, Government appointed GECOM Commissioner Desmond Trotman said that lack of finances is responsible for the perceived sloth in elections preparations. While he noted that having GECOM in perpetual election’s mode would be nice, the reality is they can do little without money. GECOM received billions in the Budget last year. But according to Trotman, they were advised by Finance Secretary Michael Joseph that monies for house-to-house registration could not be transferred for normal election preparation.The Opposition was very critical of this piece of advice rendered by the Finance Secretary, in view of the fact that the law does provide for GECOM to do exactly this and statements from his boss, Minister Jordan, which contradict him.The Party pointed to Article 222A of the Constitution, which says: “In order to assure the independence of the entities listed in the Third Schedule – (a) the expenditure of each of the entities shall be financed as a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund, determined by a lump sum by way of an annual subvention approved by the National Assembly…(b) each entity shall manage its subvention as such manner as it deems fit for the efficient discharge of its functions, subject only to conformity with the financial practices and procedures approved by the National Assembly to ensure accountability.”It also noted that in 2015, President David Granger signed off on Act 4 of 2015 – the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMAA) (Amendment) Act 2015. Section 80 B(8), states that: “The appropriation of a constitutional agency approved by the National Assembly shall be disbursed as a lump sum by the end of the month, following the month in which the appropriation was approved.”Section 80 B(7) of the same act states that: “The annual budget of a Constitutional Agency approved by the National Assembly shall not be altered without prior approval of the National Assembly.”In line with the FMAA amendment, Finance Minister Winston Jordan on November 19, 2019, during the consideration of the 2019 Budgets of GECOM, a constitutional agency, in the National Assembly, said, “Mr Chairman, the sum of $5,371,061,000 is given as a lump sum to GECOM to use as it sees fit and as it prioritises.”This issue of funding, the PPP said, has clearly become the last ‘hold-on’ by elements within GECOM working to effectively set the stage for a delay of General and Regional Elections when they become due.According to the Party, in accordance with the Constitution and the FMAA, GECOM’s full 2019 budgetary allocation should have been transferred in a lump sum to the Commission by February 2019 latest.Moreover, the Party noted that the Finance Secretary had, via letter which was presented to the full Commission during its weekly statutory meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, advised that the matter was outside of the remit of the Finance Ministry.The Party reiterated that the issue of funding is the latest hurdle thrown up by the Government-influenced parties at GECOM. This is despite the fact that the laws of Guyana are clear on funding for constitutional agencies like GECOM.House-to-house registrationOn the issue of GECOM’s push towards a new national house-to-house registration, the PPP noted that despite claims from the Commission that it can be completed by November, such a process cannot be credibly, nor accurately completed within six months. Further, the PPP said it has grave reservations about the planned move to de-register thousands of Guyanese voters who will be subject to a registration requirement that is unconstitutional and illegal.“Moreover the unnecessary nature of a new national house-to-house registration, at this point, was underscored by none other than GECOM’s Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzell.An opinion expressed by Dazzell, dated May 13, 2019, states that: “the use of the work ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggest that the process is not one where a ‘new’ list is generated, but one where the most recent list is updated or amended….I therefore advise that procedures be put in place to ensure the revision of the list, otherwise the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice any by-election that may become necessary.”Supplementary paperWith the possibility that the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling that the No-confidence Motion against Government was validly passed on December 21, 2018, Government has moved to the National Assembly to request $3.4 billion for GECOM.During Wednesday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Finance Minister Winston Jordan announced the tabling of a $7.9 billion supplementary paper. Of that amount, $3.4 billion will be requested for GECOM, which has consistently complained of being hampered by lack of finances.“I present to the National Assembly financial paper number one of 2019, supplementary estimates current and capital, totalling $7.9 billion, for the period January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 and I name May 23 for consideration of the financial paper,” Jordan informed the House.When asked on the sidelines of Parliament, Minister Jordan explained that the money is just in case GECOM should need it. He added that if there are no elections, the money would not be used.According to the Party, in accordance with the Constitution and the FMAA, GECOM’s full 2019 budgetary allocation should have been transferred in a lump sum to the Commission by February The Guyana Elections Commission2019 latest.Moreover, the Party noted that the Finance Secretary had, via letter which was presented to the full Commission during its weekly statutory meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, advised that the matter was outside of the remit of the Finance Ministry.The Party reiterated that the issue of funding is the latest hurdle thrown up by the Government-influenced parties at GECOM. This is despite the fact that the laws of Guyana are clear on funding for constitutional agencies like GECOM.House-to-house registrationOn the issue of GECOM’s push towards a new national house-to-house registration, the PPP noted that despite claims from the Commission that it can be completed by November, such a process cannot be credibly, nor accurately completed within six months. Further, the PPP said it has grave reservations about the planned move to de-register thousands of Guyanese voters who will be subject to a registration requirement that is unconstitutional and illegal.“Moreover the unnecessary nature of a new national house-to-house registration, at this point, was underscored by none other than GECOM’s Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzell.An opinion expressed by Dazzell, dated May 13, 2019, states that: “the use of the work ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggest that the process is not one where a ‘new’ list is generated, but one where the most recent list is updated or amended….I therefore advise that procedures be put in place to ensure the revision of the list, otherwise the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice any by-election that may become necessary.”Supplementary paperWith the possibility that the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling that the No-confidence Motion against Government was validly passed on December 21, 2018, Government has moved to the National Assembly to request $3.4 billion for GECOM.During Wednesday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Finance Minister Winston Jordan announced the tabling of a $7.9 billion supplementary paper. Of that amount, $3.4 billion will be requested for GECOM, which has consistently complained of being hampered by lack of finances.“I present to the National Assembly financial paper number one of 2019, supplementary estimates current and capital, totalling $7.9 billion, for the period January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 and I name May 23 for consideration of the financial paper,” Jordan informed the House.When asked on the sidelines of Parliament, Minister Jordan explained that the money is just in case GECOM should need it. He added that if there are no elections, the money would not be used.last_img

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