The Budget of the Electoral Commission to conduct the 2016 general elections has been slashed from GH¢1.2 billion to GH¢827 million, leaving a funding gap of about 31.7 per cent.
Parliament last night, approved the slashed budget for the commission to conduct the polls with a call on the government to look for other avenues of getting additional funding for the successful conduct of the elections.
After an extensive debate which travelled late into the night, the law makers observed that given the importance of a successful election to the peace and stability of the country, it was imperative for the government to find means of funding the deficit.
A report by the Special Budget Committee on the estimates said, the committe worked tirelessly to convince the E.C to reduce the original budget of GH¢1.7 billion to GH¢1.2 billion.
“The committee is mindful of the current economic challenges facing the country, however, according to the E.C, the funding gap of over 31 per cent will have devastating impact on the conduct of the elections,” the report said.
It, however advised the commission to look for innovative ways of further cutting down the budget without compromising the integrity of the elections.
It also urged the E.C to, in the spirit of transparency, avail the relevant aspects of their work programme to the various stakeholders to enable them to adequately prepare for the polls.
On flexibility in releasing funds to the commission for the conduct of the 2016 elections, the committee urged the Ministry of Finance to adhere strictly to the work and cash plans submitted by the EC to enable them prepare adequately for a successful conduct of the polls.
Last Thursday, the chairperson of the commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, told the committee of the whole that the high cost of the election was due to the introduction of certain reforms emanating from the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s verdict on the 2012 elections petition.
Enumerating some of the reforms, she said the voter population per polling station had been limited to 850 registered voters, thereby increasing the number of polling stations from 26,000 to 30,000 nationwide.
The key drivers for the increase in the budget, she said, was the rise in the number of polling stations, which meant that there would be more technology cost, and cost of training election officials.
Mrs Osei said a large chunk of the budget would go into the cost of the biometric voter registration system and the biometric verification device.
By Yaw Kyei