General News of Monday, 28 December 2015
Members of Parliament have asked government to release the full GH¢1.2billion being demanded by the Electoral Commission for conducting the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.
While approving the GH¢826million allocated to the EC by the Finance Ministry, the parliamentarians warned that to avoid any problems regarding the elections, government should make up the difference of GH¢400million.
The special budgets committee of parliament indicated that: “Given the importance of conducting a successful election to the peace and stability of the country, the committee is cautiously urging the MoF to look for avenues of getting additional funding to successfully conduct the elections”.
The EC initially proposed GH¢1.7billion, but government agreed to pay GH¢1.2billion — over GH¢400million of which is in arrears.
Speaking on the matter, Majority Leader Alban Bagbin said the nation’s peace and security should override any other consideration, a reason for which the EC must be given adequate funding to conduct the elections.
Alban Bagbin, who is also the chairman of the Special Budgets Committee, advised the EC to also look for innovative ways of cutting down the budget for the elections without compromising their integrity.
Furthermore, the committee recommended that releases for procuring some electoral materials and equipment should be made a “priority requirement”.
The chair of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei who presented the Commission’s budget estimates to Parliament prior to the approval, had said the budget was premised on 30,000 polling stations for an election that will involve about 152,000 election officials.
“We also premised the budget on an exchange rate of GH¢3.89 to a dollar. The total budget for the elections is GH¢1.047billion. If we include the administration and other costs which are not directly election-related, it gives us a budget of GH¢1.2billion. In the budget ceiling announced by the Finance Ministry, we have a budget of GH¢800million for the elections — the first round. So this gives us a funding gap of GH¢400million.
“This budget does not include the cost of a new register; the cost of auditing a new register. There is however some provision for a run-off; the Ministry of Finance made a provision of GH¢200million. I think we have a budget of about GH¢350 million, so there is another shortfall there. However, the budget makes provision for all the reforms we have agreed with the political parties.
“Since announcement of the ceiling, we have been looking internally and discussing how to bridge the budget gap; and subject to the agreement of the IPAC (Inter Party Advisory Committee), we think that we may be able to reduce the number of polling stations to 29,000 instead of the projected 30,000,” she said.
According to the EC boss, the Commission would cut the cost of the election budget by about GH¢60million if the number of polling stations can be reduced to 29,000 and still be able to achieve the Commission’s objective of having 850 voters per polling station.
She said the Commission is also looking at postponing implementation of some recommended electoral reforms that are not critical to beyond 2016, in a bid to bridge a funding gap in the elections’ budget.