It is sadden, disgraceful and very embarrassing that poll workers hired by the National Elections Commission for the December 8, 2020 special senatorial election and national referendum are crying and protesting for stipend owed them over a month since the polls were conducted across the country. We just can’t comprehend that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning would delay in providing money to the NEC to pay stipends such as US$50, US$75 or US$100 to poll workers who served under very strenuous circumstances during the poll.
On the eve of the election in December 2020 we vividly recalled that polling staff across Montserrado County demanded stipend before being deployed. The ugly situation they tried to avoid has now caught up with them: The elections are over but pay cannot come. When will they receive it? Only heaven knows.
NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne-Lansanah last week appealed to protesting polling staffto exercise patience as the Commission continues to engage the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to make funds available to complete payment for all poll workers throughout the country.
Madam Browne-Lansanah said Thursday, 14 January the Commission, through its Finance Section is in daily discussion with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to quickly disburse remaining Five Million United States dollars (US$5 Million) to clear all debts it owns not only poll workers, but venders who also rendered electoral related services, including car rentals, printing, and the media.
But Chairperson Browne-Lansanah should have known ever since that when she sliced her US$17 million budget for the 2020 special senatorial elections and the National Referendum by US$4million, she was already running into trouble such as the one before the doorstep of the Commission, for none of her predecessors had conducted nationwide election on a meager budget of US$13 million.
We believe her decision to have accepted to operate on such a low budget for the senatorial election, national referendum and two by-elections for the House of Representatives was a very big mistake that she might be difficult, if not impossible, to correct under this administration.
Madam Browne-Lansanah would face a serious task in convincing both lawmakers at the Capitol and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to have an operational budget above US$17 million for future election. She brought the bar very low for an important national endeavor that has left the Commission walloping in debts and strangulated.
Apart from donor’s support, we stand to be corrected, but the Government of Liberia’s contribution to the December 8, 2020 senatorial election did not pass US$5 million. We Liberians, including government always want others to do for us what ought to do for ourselves, as a nation.
Though the government is faced with shortage of cash in banks, crucial issue like election should not be taken lightly. It requires adequate planning and funding to make outcomes successful, including payment to polling staff and vendors.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning should exert all efforts in providing money for the National Elections Commission to enable the electoral house meets its financial obligations to vendors, media houses and polling staff for services rendered during the election.