The National Elections Commission (NEC) and Line Ministries and Agencies of the Government of Liberia (GOL) Saturday August 22, 2020 held a RoundTable discussion with the core aim of reducing election related expenses, especially over the course of the 2020 Special Senatorial Election (SSE) and the constitutional Referendum.
The Saturday meeting with the key National Partners was the debut of series of discussions as NEC solicits support from these institutions reduce the budget of the ongoing elections.
It is a foregone conclusion that the ongoing processes of the SSE and Referendum are being executed under “very difficult circumstances in our Country.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the attending adverse socioeconomic repercussions on the nation”, according to the Chairperson of the Commission Davidetta Browne Lansanah, are challenges to the NEC in the conduct of the two important elections.
These challenges compared the Commission to seek an extension of the constitutionally mandated date for the SSE from October 13, 2020 to December 8, 2020.
Initially, the NEC in 2019 proffered a budget of 24.4 million USD, which was reduced to 19.6million, and then reduced further to 17.6 million. Quite recently, the budget was again reduced to 13.5 million USD.
“These drastic reductions were done in consideration of the general economic condition prevailing in the Country”, averred Chairperson Lansanah.
Consequently, Chairperson Lansanah said the cuts have substantially affected some major election activities including the “reduction in the budget line of the number of days for the conduct of the Voter Roll Update (VRU), number of temporary staff for the VRU and the actual election”.
Also, “Civic and Voter Education activities, logistics, and the use of mobile teams for the VRU” are among decision made as a result of the reduction of the budget.In spite of the reduction in the budget to 13.5m, NEC says “the GOL might not still be in the position to provide the full amount “, considering current realities.
According to the NEC, “in the absence of operational funding from GOL, the burden of running the NEC on the daily basis, including basic services as electricity, airport clearance of procured goods, internet, janitorial supplies, among others, is difficult”.
Hence, it is believed the Roundtable dialogue on the elections, which is built on the premise that “Election is Everybody’s Business” will help to “enhance national ownership and sustainability of the process and decrease costs in areas as electoral operations including transportation or vehicle costs”.
The NEC is also using the Roundtable to leverage the potentials of its partners in government to lessen the financial burden on government that are associated with elections.
The NEC believes that “using the available potential and resources of these government institutions in the position to provide goods, services, and works for the Commission, might solve the critical operational issues for the election and further reduce the 13.5m budget for the SSE and Referendum.
Held at the Headquarters of the Commission, the Roundtable brought together eight of the 11 invited line Ministries and Agencies of the GOL and the NEC Board of Commissioners, Executive Director, Deputy Executive Directors, and Directors.
The National Election Partners involved are:
1. The Liberia National Police (LNP): to continue providing security, and where necessary logistics.
2. The Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS): Assist with the dissemination of Civic and Voter Education and regular press updates.
3. The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL): Collaboration on COVID-19 prevention and mobilization relevant medical materials.
4. The Ministries of Health and Social Welfare (MOH): Collaboration on COVID-19 prevention and mobilization relevant medical materials.
5. Ministry of Agriculture (MOA): To assist with Warehouses especially in Nimba County
6. Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA): To facilitate unhindered operation of NEC in the interior of Liberia. Assist CVE activities and accommodate NEC’s temporary staff. Assist with Hall and facilities for electoral trainings, workshops, and prevent other traditional activities that would hinder elections operations.
7. Ministry of National Defense: Assist with logistics where possible, especially transportation of election materials by boat.
8. The General Services Agency (GSA): Mobilization of GOL vehicles for election operations.
9. The Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC): Assist with the regular supply of water to the NEC.
10. The Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LBTELCO): To provide uninterrupted internet services to the NEC.
11. The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC): To provide uninterrupted electricity to the NEC.
The maiden dialogue, which the NEC Chairperson described as a good beginning, is expected to continue in the coming days. It was graced by NEC’s lead international partner in UNDP, through its Chief Technical Advisor on elections, Dr. Lenka Homolkova.