— Promises Senatorial Elections will not be one hour or a month late
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah has apologized to Senators for usurping their functions by writing the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) to begin the procurement process for the up-coming senatorial election in the absence of budgetary allotment.
In a rare confession, Minister Tweah informed Senate plenary that to start the midterm Senatorial Elections process, he has written PPCC to begin the procurement process for the election when he did not have the authority to do so in the absence of legislative budgetary allotment
“I think six to seven million United States Dollars, about three or four months ago; I now stand here publicly to say that I did not have the authority to write that,” the minister said.
Minister Tweah continued: “So clearly, in writing PPCC to move forward, I think I violated the law because the money is not in the budget; so the Minister was essentially committing a procurement process to money that was not in the budget; but had I not done so, it means we would have lost a significant step, so my apology in writing, partiality usurping your function knowing that that amount of money was not in the budget.”
The Minister assured the lawmakers of the government’s definite commitment to hold the October midterm Senatorial Elections, emphasizing that elections are statutory Constitutional responsibility, which he said any meaningful government should prioritize; “because without them we don’t have constituted authority.”
“This present administration has been working with the National Elections Commission from the submission of its original budget of US$23 Million. We worked to bring it down to US$17.8 million, where it is now, so we have shown the highest level of commitment, recognizing that time is of the essence… but as it stands, the current budget of which we are running does not have for the conduct of the elections, and only the National Legislature can provide the fix for that problem, remedy it through a budget for the elections.”
The Minister intimated that in the current processes in the House of Representatives and Senate, in terms of the recast process, “we should be able to remedy that situation once the Senate and House act fast, and we will have the authority to then commit funds to NEC.”
On the question of whether the Ministry’s delay in providing money to NEC is due to the fact that the current team of commissioners are going out in the next few weeks, Minister Tweah clarified that legally, since they have tenure, “they can receive that money and spend it; expediently. We are not releasing not because their tenure is expiring, because I just don’t have the authority to release that amount of money to them, but legally I should provide the money to them if it’s available…”
Minister Tweah informed the Senate that as part of the recast budget, the government has US$3 million proposals for the Legislators consideration in the current budget, and in the “next fiscal year’s budget we have US$6 million. The government is essentially saying that it will commit US$9 Million, while our development partners have agreed to come up with the rest of about US$8.8 Million. I can assure the public that there is absolutely no doubt there will be money for the elections.”
The Finance Minister further emphasized that having spoken some experts, they do believe that elections can be held and that there is no threat to the elections. “The last thing this government (administration) will do, will be to delay the October elections by one hour. So we have no incentive of delaying this election, and there is nothing we are doing to delay the elections at all, but legally we just have to hold them in October.”
During the recent appearance of the NEC Chairman and his team of commissioners at the Senate a few weeks ago, they told the Senate that they had not received a dime from central government, for the conduct of the October elections.
The Commission warned that “if by the 30th of May, the voter registration process is not completed and a credible roll established, the possibility of conducting the election by October, will be seriously handicapped.”
Apart from voter roll issues, authorities of NEC has alarmed that the Commission is running out of time for the preparations of the election and the referendum.
“I think it is good to start early to meet up with our timeline, I am worried that if we don’t have money now to start the education of our people for the election process it might be a problem,” the commission chair Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah said in January.
Cllr. Korkoyah further said that the timelines and regulations for the election have been developed and approved including all of the technical works leading to the election are set but there is no money to start the process.
In another development, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s persuasive stance of calling for roll call before commencement of sessions seems to be paying off well. After the Senate failed to convene last Thursday, due to lack of a quorum, sixteen (16) Senators were present during Tuesday’s roll call, and four more Senators added to that number to bring the total present to twenty (20) Senators.