Chartered Accountant and analyst Christopher Ram says that the cost per vote to the country has increased exponentially from $520 in 1997 to $24,746 in 2011.
In his blog at www.chrisram.net, Ram said this raises the question of the need for an efficiency audit to assess the spiralling expenditure.
Ram said that between 2006 and 2014 when the country had only two general elections and no local government elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) was voted a total of $17,700 million dollars out of the Consolidated Fund, inclusive of $3,362 million in 2014.
These, he said, were staggering numbers.
“The increase in expenditure on Gecom in the years between elections has been steep and rapid. Gecom’s cumulative expenditure from 1993 to 1997, an election year, seems a paltry sum of $212 million. For 1998 to 2001 when Guyana next went to the polls the expenditure had risen to a staggering $1,938 million; between 2002 and 2006 inclusive the figure increased to $4,392 million and for 2007 to 2011 it was $8,580 million,” Ram stated.
He said that the disaggregated numbers were even more troubling. Ram said that employment costs jumped from $3.3 million in 1997 to $78.2 million in 2001 and then to a “whopping” $364 million in 2006, $485 million in 2011 and in 2013 the cost had gone further up to $583 million. In addition, he said that the number of persons employed has moved from 22 full-time in 1997 to 106 in 2001, 228 in 2006, 311 in 2011 to 337 in 2014.
Other costs have also risen, he said, but the trend line is jagged when the years between elections are considered. Costs other than employment and capital costs were $141 million in 1997, $936 million in 2001, $2,056 million in 2006 and $2,094 million in 2011.
Looking at the cost of the administration of the Commission versus Elections Administration. Ram said that such breakdown exists only in relation to the budgeted costs and not actual costs. However, he said it was useful to note that the 2014 Estimates show that of Gecom’s 2014 budget of $3,362 million, $1,766 million or 53% went to finance the administration of the Commission and $1,596 million or 47% towards elections.
For 1997, 2001 and 2006, over 50% of the costs were spent in the elections year but for the 2011 elections, this was only 32%, he noted.
Ram pointed out that it was not as if the number of voters had increased. The votes cast, as shown below have declined over the years while the cost per vote has increased from $520 in 1997 to $24,746 in 2011.
Gecom, Ram said, has to address its efficiency and he argued that the National Assembly had not helped by its apparent generosity and its failure to pay sufficient attention to the annual allocations to the elections body.
Ram contended that once the May 11, 2015 elections are out of the way, the country must address the much needed changes recommended for Gecom since 1992.
“Elections must not only be free and fair, they must also be efficient and certainly not be prohibitively expensive. Some years ago when I wrote about Gecom’s cost, my attention was drawn to a comparative examination that placed Guyana fourth in the world in the ranking of cost of elections in terms of votes cast. I would be quite happy if we fall to forty and below,” Ram posited.