The National Assembly has passed the sum of $1.1B for the hosting of Local Government Elections later this year. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, who defended the sum in the Committee of Supply, this afternoon, said that the funds will satisfy various programmes including training, print and nonprint materials, and public awareness.
Teixeira was grilled by Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) regarding the execution of a House-to-House registration prior to the hosting of the election. The Minister said that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) did not request funds to conduct this process, however, should it require funds to do so, it can activate a supplementary arrangement.
Coalition Member of Parliament (MPs) repeatedly asked the minister if her government will support a House-to-House process to replenish the list; citing that such a recommendation was made by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in its observers report into the March General and Regional Elections. Teixeira said that it is up to the GECOM Chairperson and Commissioners to decide whether that route should be taken.
Former Public Service Minister, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley then asked the Minister if her government will be “willing to put all hands on deck to ensure a new voters’ list, but Teixeira retorted that several observers had recommended that persons be criminally charged for “attempting to hijacking the elections”. She then asked Sarabo-Halley if her party (the Coalition) would support that recommendation.
“The issue of a new voters’ list is a decision of GECOM, not the government,” she noted.
Meanwhile, she told the Committee that some $237.7M has been set aside for the purchasing of print and nonprint materials, which will include the printing of ballot papers for the elections.
Teixeira told the House that GECOM is looking to print 500,000 ballot papers. The revelation was greeted with a series of questions aimed at ascertaining how the Commission arrived at this estimate given that there is no “updated voters’ list”.
The minister said that she was advised that the estimate was derived from the 2018 LGEs, which illustrated about 500,000 voters. She was quick to point out that it was GECOM that made the budgetary projection for 500,000 ballots and not the government.
“GECOM’s extrapolation and calculation regarding the number of ballots was done by the Commission’s technical team, not the government. I had nothing to do with the drafting,” she said.
The minister also noted that no provision was made in the budget regarding local observers.
Coalition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, subsequently asked the minister if she was “worried and concerned” that no provision was made for a House-to-House registration. The Speaker, however, disallowed the question, citing the Standing Orders which prohibits the soliciting of opinions from MPs.