In March this year, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madame Davidetta Browne Lansanah disclosed that the budget for the October 10, 2023 General and Presidential Elections was “adjusted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) from US$91million to US$33million.”
As a result of the adjustment, the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) which should have taken place simultaneously was conducted in two faces, the Training of Trainers (TOT) which should have also been conducted for ten days was conducted for a few days, while complaints about the shortages of the BVR cards were heard across sides of the country.
Following the announcement of the slice of the elections budget, the United States government through its Ambassador, Micheal McCarthy, called on the government of Liberia to “provide the Elections Commission with its full 2023 budget so it has the necessary resources to effectively prepare for and implement all aspects of the electoral process, or risk unfair elections in 2023.”
Responding to the over sixty percent (60%) cut of the elections’ budget, the Communications Director of NEC, Henry Flomo said, “the budget was debated and adjusted by the government.
The last time I checked, it was adjusted to around US$63 million or so. Cut-in elections budgets always happen. What the NEC is now doing is strategizing to work in what we have.”
Flomo recommended that the NEC be given financial autonomy to work easily and promptly, void of adjustments.
“The Commission has a constitutional mandate, which is to conduct elections in time. So, a lot of things will be adjusted as the cash is adjusted. But when we have control over our financial coffers, we can go there anytime to get whatever we want.”
Flomo however urged members of the public not to panic about the credibility of the upcoming elections saying, no part of the electoral process has been stalled to endanger the nation’s democracy.
‘There should be no reason to panic. The issue of transparency is being upheld by us. That is why we have accredited media people, civil society organizations, party agents, international people and those who want to observe or report on the registration to do so.
“And we have not stopped any of the activity leading to the participation, or inclusion of every Liberian who has an interest in the elections. So there’s no way one would say democracy is threatened. Until those things are stopped, then one can say the democracy of the state is threatened.”
When asked if the adjusted money allocated for this year’s elections was sufficient for the conduct of the election, Flomo responded by saying, “My boss has already spoken about that to the House of Senate.”
Oscar Bloh is the Chairperson of the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC). The ECC is a coalition of civic society organizations that observed elections in Liberia.
Giving the ECC’s take on the cut of the upcoming elections budget, Bloh stated, “NEC in negotiating with the Ministry of Finance adjusted the budget. They are in the know if the budget reduction is sufficient to conduct the elections. If it wasn’t sufficient, they would have said it. Keeping silent means the money is enough.”
The ECC Chairperson indicated that the elections are constitutionally mandated, and it’s the government’s responsibility to provide resources for the conduct of the elections. Additionally, it is constitutionally scheduled and as such, they (the government) should have planned better.
Oscar Bloh recounted, “the Liberia Revenue Authority on numerous occasions said it has exceeded projected revenue collection. So, the government is in a position to fund these elections. It needs to prioritize these elections, by showing its commitment and will, because it is required by law.”
He expressed fear about the quality of the elections which is contingent on the availability of resources.
“If resources are slow in coming, it will undermine the quality of the elections. And when the process is compromised, we run the risk of compromising the outcome,” Bloh noted.
But there are other electoral supports from foreign nations and organizations to the NEC. The Liberia Electoral Support Project (LEDP) supports the Government of Liberia through the National Elections Commission (NEC) to conduct credible, transparent, inclusive, and peaceful elections. Also, the United Nations Elections Basket, to name a few.
On July 30, 2021, the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia, representing the Government of Sweden, signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to contribute approximately USD 4.8 million to the Liberia Electoral Support Project (LESP) for the period from 1 August 2021 to 31 December 2024.
Could it be, as a result of some of those technical supports that are given to the NEC, that the budget for the upcoming elections received such a huge cut? Or, it is just about the routine that election budgets should be cut almost every time by the MFDP. The world watches as the NEC leads Liberia from scratch to finish during these crucial electioneering times of the country.