The Liberian Legislature, last week, finally passed the 2013/2014 National Budget after months of hearings. The budget, a projection of an annual expenditure by the Liberian Government, was submitted to the Legislature by the Executive since May 2013. Considering the level of work to be done across the country, the activities of a number of government institutions may undergo some intermittent hitches due to the drastic reduction of their budgets initially submitted to the Liberian Legislature.
Among them, is the National Elections Commission or NEC, which submitted a budget of more than Fifteen-Million United States Dollars. The budget was in consonance with the activities of the Commission, including the conduct of voter’s registration and next year’s Mid-Term Senatorial Election. Being cognizant of the foregoing, the Members of the Legislature chose to drastically reduce the NEC budget from the more than Fifteen-Million United States Dollars submitted earlier to a little over Five-Million United States Dollars. Such drastic reduction was attributed to “donor’s support” to the NEC- something many well-meaning Liberians and civic organizations have described as “poor justification”.
Truly enough, the justification given by the Legislature for the drastic reduction cannot convince anyone. What if donors decide to drastically reduce their support to the NEC or even with-hold their support? With the reduction in the NEC budget, should donors contribute or increase their support and have a greater say in the process in terms of the control or management of such funds, won’t there be concerns, especially from the very Legislature, about interference? These are, but a few questions many well-meaning Liberians have begun asking.
Fifteen-Million United States Dollars was a fair amount to prepare for and conduct the Mid-Term Election, considering the human resource and logistical implications in such a process. We had even anticipated that thirteen of the fifteen Senators, who will be participating in the 2014 Mid-Term Election would have intervened in maintaining the initial NEC Budget during the budget hearing in the Senate, as was done with the Minimum Wage Bill. But again, the Senators may have conducted themselves the way they did for reasons best known to themselves, ignoring the consequences at the poll.
Despite the numerous concerns and appeals expressed to the Legislature by many Liberians and organizations, including the Election Coordinating Committee or ECC, they still went ahead to effect such drastic and disappointing reduction of the Commission’s budget from Fifteen-Million to Five-Million United States Dollars.
Now that those who are representing the people have taken such unfortunate decision against the interest of the very people they represent, we can only admonish donors and partners of the NEC to continue to persevere in the interest of the Liberian people by supporting the National Elections Commission. We are of the strongest conviction that Liberians across the country do appreciate all of their support to the commission, and let them not feel disappointed/discourage about the attitude of our Legislature.