— As political parties meet with Senate committees today
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning has disclosed that the National Elections Commission(NEC) will in the next two weeks receive US$2M as additional funding for the ensuing Special Senatorial Elections, and a national referendum.
Minister Samuel Tweah, appearing before the Senate Committees on Judiciary and Autonomous Agencies Monday, asserted that through the intervention of President George Weah, his Ministry is accelerating works and eventual passage on the new fiscal budget, in which the amount of US$8M is allocated for NEC’s conduct of the elections.
“Given the importance of the elections this year, I can tell you that we are prepared to submit a large sum of that US$8M early July. There is no doubt that the most important call right now… is the holding of the elections, perhaps not to run into what you call if not a constitutional crisis, a constitutional dilemma; and to avert that it means we have to manage the cash flow situation such that we prioritize the holding of elections,” Minister Tweah explained, and assured that the Government is more than prepared to fund that early in the budget year, “so that it doesn’t go behind; so the financial question is cleared.”
Minister Tweah, answering a question from Senator H. Varney Sherman, said the first tranche of the US$8M payment to NEC in July can not be less than US$3M; “I want to make that commitment.”
Also responding to the Senate Committees’ question, the Acting Chairman of NEC, Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansana, maintained that her Commission needs all of the US$17.6M budget for the conduct of the elections. She disclosed that NEC and MFDP have been holding series of meetings during when the Commission’s submitted budget was discussed line by line to see what was required for the Ministry to be able to provide the funding for the elections.
On the question of whether it was feasible for the holding of the elections on the proposed date of December, Madam Brown-Lansanah assured that the operational aspect of holding the elections are in place; “what is required is the resources and we are getting them, and we are going for our procurement which is an integral part (key) to be able to conduct these elections. So I will say to you, operationally we are ready, financially or whatever resources we are supposed to be getting, we need them now and we are getting some already.”
With respect to the Voter Registration Update in the wake of the unpredictable nature of the Coronavirus, Madam Brown-Lansana reminded the hearing of reliance which was the conduct of voters registration and elections during the Ebola in 2014. “That was possible because we were in contact with the Ministry of Health who helped us with our procedures of social distancing, washing our hands and testing; so I am saying to you, operationally it’s possible because we’ve done it before. The Ebola situation was even worst in terms of the number of deaths.”
Meanwhile, political parties are expected to meet with the Senate Committees today, at the Capitol Building.
It can be recalled that President Weah recently wrote the Legislature through a request by NEC, for adjustment of holding the Special Senatorial Elections and national referendum from second Tuesday in October, to a date in December.