Liberia: Elections Commission Submits Draft Budget of US$91.9M for 2023 Elections

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MONROVIA – The National Elections Commission (NEC), in keeping with Section 11.2 of the Elections law, has submitted to the Liberian Legislature a draft budget of US$91,958,547.72 for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and General elections.

In a communication to both Senate and House of Representatives, the NEC said the total amount projected is for biometric system to conduct voters’ registration and elections.

In the Senate, the communication from the NEC was sent to the Committee on ways, Means and Finance to be brought back with recommendations in two weeks. The Plenary of the House of Representatives mandated its Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, and Elections and Executive to also review the communication and report with a set of recommendations.

If accepted, the proposed amount will be the highest budget used to conduct elections in Liberia.

The Budget’s Breakdown

In the communication bearing the signature of NEC’s Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansannah, US$3,968,304.84 is allocated for biometric voter registration pilot project; while US$29,680,200.06 goes to biometric voter registration.

Public Information accounts for US$795,590, Geographic Information System (GIS) takes US$561,932.44 and Data center gets US$3,442,340.

Also in the budget, civic voters’ education activities get US$6,881,655 and gender voters education: US$1,308,510.

The 2023 Elections take US$16,560,425.46, while US$12, 062, 33.05 Was allotted for Presidential Runoff Election. Also in the budget US$8,932,053.56 is allotted for the operations at headquarters, field operations US$3,454,682.80, personnel and related expenses US$3,838,680.0 and Monitoring and Evaluations get US$471,840.50 

NEC’s Communication Follows Senator Sherman’s Warning

The NEC’s communication comes in the wake of Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman’s warning over a potential constitutional crisis if ‘inchoate problems’ associated with the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections are not addressed.

In his communication, Senator Sherman, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked his colleagues to join him to demand the NEC to submit a tentative budget for the conduct of the 2023 polls. He also suggested that the Legislature allocate certain amount in each annual budget as of now in readiness for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

“If we wait until 2023, as we did in 2020 to find the funds for 2023 presidential and legislative elections, we run risk that we might not have sufficient funds and we might for the second time be faced with the issue of postponement of those elections. That will be the second time that we will be playing with a constitutionally-mandated election day because of our failure and/or neglect to prepare in advance for the obvious,” he warned his colleagues back then.

The 2023 election will comprise presidential election and election for both houses of the Legislature.

Senator Sherman’s communication stated that the looming crisis can be averted through concerted actions by both the Legislative and Executive Branches of the Government.

It can be recalled that in 2020, Senator Sherman headed a select committee of Senators to review a request from the NEC to postpone the 2020 senatorial election from the constitutionally-mandated second Tuesday of October in 2020. Article 83(a) to another date.

Shearman’s committee, along with political parties and the NEC agreed that the election be postponed to the second Tuesday in December 2020. The NEC’s request for postponement was based on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak but their justification that there was no fund was rejected by most political parties and civil society organizations.

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