The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has raised grave concerns following publicised positions attributed to Government-nominated Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner, Desmond Trotman, relative to GECOM’s ability to conduct General and Regional Elections.
Commissioner Trotman was quoted in the local media as saying, “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 that you require money for elections, you have to go back to Parliament.”
However, the Party noted that these comments are in contradiction with the quintessential message conveyed by the Finance Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, via letter, which was presented to the full Commission, during its weekly statutory meeting on Tuesday last.
The Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners have communicated to the Party that the Finance Secretary, who was approached on the issue of funding, advised that the matter was outside of the ambit of the Ministry of Finance.
The Party reiterates 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.
In August 2015, President David Granger signed off Act 4 of 2015 – the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMAA) (Amendment) Act 2015. Section 80 B (8) – makes it clear 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.”
According to the PPP, the section clearly prohibits the Minister of Finance from altering the appropriation to GECOM, as he is empowered to do with the appropriations of non-constitutional agencies, but does not prevent GECOM from utilising the “lump sum” as it sees fit to carry out its functions.
In line with the FMAA amendment, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, on November 19, 2019, during the consideration of the 2019 budget 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 prioritizes.”
Moreover, the Party noted that Article 222A of the Constitution 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.” The issue of funding 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.
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 PPP believes that Commissioner Trotman exposed this mindset when he made it clear that regardless of the decision made by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on the cases related to the challenge to the vote on the No-Confidence Motion, funding is a ‘plausible’ reason to effect a delay in Guyanese heading to the polls.
“This must be condemned. HOUSE-TO-HOUSE… on the issue of GECOM’s continued push towards a new national house-to-house registration – a process that GECOM insists can be completed by November – the PPP wishes to stress that such a process cannot be credibly, nor accurately completed within six months.”
Further, the PPP 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.
Dazzell, in her opinion dated May 13, 2019, stated that: “The use of the work ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggests 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.” It must be noted that the November 2018 Local Government Elections was held with the very list without complaints from any of the contesting political parties.
As such, the Party said that GECOM cannot be allowed to perpetrate any delay of General and Regional Elections, once they become due – more so, if they are ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
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