File photo: National Elections Commission chairperson Prof. Abednego Akok

Government allocates over SSP280m to elections commission

The South Sudanese government has allocated SSP281,814,086 ($282,000) to the National Elections Commission in the financial year budget 2023/2024.

The South Sudanese government has allocated SSP281,814,086 ($282,000) to the National Elections Commission in the financial year budget 2023/2024.

In the 2022/2023 national budget, the overall budget allocation of the commission was SSP73,446,021.

According to the proposed 2023/2024 budget reviewed by Radio Tamazuj, the allocated funds cover elections management, public outreach and voter education, finance and administration, support services, and logistics. 

According to the new budget’s highlights, the Commission is required to conduct civic and voter registration, build the capacity of elections management personnel and pay for office rent in the states.

The National Ministry of Finance and Planning has allocated SSP 179,378,131 for National Elections Commission staff wages and salaries. The approved positions in the commission, according to the proposed budget before Parliament, are 266.

However, election staff often shoot up during the conduct of elections, including polling officers, returning officers, and other staff who are hired temporarily. It is not clear if these have been factored into the proposed budget.

Considering there will be elections at various levels, the cost of printing ballot papers, procuring ballot boxes, and transporting them to grassroots polling stations will also be exorbitant.  

Also, South Sudan’s terrain and lack of infrastructure present a logistics nightmare which translates into high transportation and haulage costs.

It is not clear how the budget estimates were arrived at seeing that relevant legislation has not been passed and constituencies have not been demarcated and the demographics of voters have not been methodically and conclusively computed.

Interestingly, the elections are scheduled for after next year’s budget will be passed.

Under the 2018 peace agreement, general elections must take place 60 days before the end of the transitional period. Only 18 months are remaining in the transitional period which was extended last year.

But critical work remains to be done, including preparing legal and constitutional frameworks for the polls.

The elections commission, which is yet to be reconstituted per the agreement, is an electoral management body with the vision to strengthen democratic culture through free and credible elections and to ensure the rights of South Sudanese to vote.