MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Bush Chicken has gathered that the National Elections Commission and the Ministry of Finance and Development have agreed on the amount of US$1.5 million for the senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong.
The elections are meant to fill the vacancies created in the Senate as a result of George Weah’s and Jewel Howard-Taylor’s ascendency to the presidency and vice presidency, respectively.
According to sources aware of the negotiations, NEC and the Finance Ministry agreed on US$1.5 million for the elections. Both sources spoke anonymously because they did not have the authorization to discuss the matter publicly.
Following notification from the Senate on February 13 about the two vacancies, NEC had submitted a budget of US$3.9 million for the by-elections in the two counties.
However, Samuel Tweah, the finance minister, publicly rejected the US$3.9 million budget, saying that his ministry would “rigorously scrutinize every budget emanating from every government-spending entity.”
“To appropriate US$3.9 million on elections is not going to happen,” Tweah said.
The finance minister argued that NEC already has trained and experienced staff from the 2017 general elections who are capable of conducting the pending by-elections. Moreover, he said budget experts at the ministry had informed him that US$1.2-1.5 million was enough to hold the by-elections.
He maintained that a “pro-poor election budget” should not exceed what his experts had advised.
Reacting to the proposed reduction in the commission’s budget, Jerome Korkoyah, NEC’s chairman, had defended the US$3.9 million budget on ELBC Radio.
He emphasized that there were certain critical and specialized technical elements needed to ensure that an election is credible and has a legitimacy that every Liberian seeks in an electoral process.
However, according to the reports, both agencies have now agreed to spend US$1.5 million to hold the elections in May.
When asked about the arrangement, Henry Flomo, NEC’s director of communications, said while it was no secret that the Finance Ministry had rejected NEC’s original budget, he was not yet aware of any agreement.
“I do not know whether NEC and MFDP have agreed on a US$1.5 million budget for the by-elections,” he told The Bush Chicken.
Flomo said representatives from NEC have been meeting with Finance Ministry officials, but he has not been briefed about the outcome of the meetings.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah