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ECJ budget 25 per cent short of election year needs

According to the estimates, the ECJ has been allocated $3.1 billion, including $1.2 billion for holding of the local government elections, which should be held by June; $1.4 billion for the registration of voters; and another $511 million for administrative expenses.

The ECJ said recently that it needs $4.2 billion to carry out its duties this year, including $2 billion for a voter reverification exercise. The 2015/16 provisions include $1.4 billion for the registration and reverification of qualified voters, as well as the processing of demographic data prior to the production of an updated official voters’ list and the production of voter’s identification cards for registered voters.

This year’s allocation is a significant increase over the $869 million which the ECJ was granted in 2014/15. However, Director of Elections Orrette Fisher had pointed out at a press conference held by the commission at its offices on Red Hills Road in Kingston last month, that last year’s provision was approximately 30 per cent of the $3 billion in budget funding, including the $2 billion for the reverification, which the commission sought from the Ministry of Finance and Planning at the time.

The ECJ said last month that it needed $3 billion for the reverification exercise and its administrative expenses, plus the $1.2 billion for holding the local government elections this year. Last year, the commission received only $495.7 million of the approximately $1 billion it needed for administrative expenses.

This year, the administrative provisions have only been increased by just over $15 million, which is evidently an inflation adjustment. However, with elections in the air, the Government could be contemplating additional resources in supplementary estimates later this year.

Opposition members of parliament have consistently raised concerns about the voter registration process and the need to “clean up” the list which spokesman on finance and planning Audley Shaw said has not been done in 17 years.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica is not discharging its statutory duty to make sure that the electoral list is clean for free and fair elections,” Shaw said.

But, ECJ Commissioner Earl Jarrett told the recent press conference that the absence of money renders the ECJ “ineffective and inefficient” , and that the commissioners have no intention to be negligent. “The truth is that we do know that Jamaica is going through difficult economic times, but notwithstanding that, the ECJ is a creature of the people, as passed by law in Parliament, and as I said, we have been living on 30 per cent of our budget requirement. I believe that it is the will of the people to have the ECJ properly funded,” Jarrett stated.

The 2015/16 estimates pointed out that $2.3 billion of the total will be used for goods and services necessary for the reverification and election exercises, and $536 million for compensation of employees. The rest will cover travel, rental and utilities, among other costs.

 




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