Dr Afari-Gyan President John Evans Atta Mills' publicized cost cutting and austere measures has hit the budgetary allocations of the Electoral Commission (EC) and two other independent governance institutions which are critical in deepening the democratic culture in Ghana.
The other institutions, whose service budgets have been cut, are the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
This has compelled Members of Parliament (MPs) to call on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to critically look at the budgets of these institutions so that they are well resourced to carry out their constitutional mandates.
For instance, the service budget of the EC has been significantly reduced by 30 percent from GH¢418, 104 in 2008 to GH¢294, 763 for the 2009 fiscal year and these according to a report by the Special Budget Committee, would greatly affect the activities of the Commission.
The reduction of the amount, according to the Committee chaired by Hon. Alban S. K. Bagbin, would affect reforms the EC intends to carryout this year as part of measures to enhance the transparency and credibility of the country's electoral process.
Furthermore, the Committee observed from the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government that there has been general reduction in the service budget of almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including the forgone institutions.
The Committee noted that this measure was in line with the government's effort to eliminate frivolous expenditure on workshops and other activities.
However, it was the considered opinion of the Committee that the EC is primarily a service-oriented organization; therefore its service budget should have been treated differently and for that reason, implored the Minister for Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, to reconsider the allocation to the Commission.
Commenting on the floor of Parliament yesterday, Hon. Bagbin, who is also the Majority Leader and MP for Nadowli West, noted that governments have over the years starved governance institutions and this has not helped in attracting the needed human resources.
According to Hon. Bagbin, the budget for the NCCE has been abysmally low and it was sad that this reduction was not in line with President Mills' own statement of strengthening all the governance institutions to live up to expectation.
He urged the Executive arm of government to ensure that these institutions are properly resourced.
Expressing similar sentiments, Prof. George Yaw Gyan-Baffour, MP for Wenchi and former deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, said the budget for CHRAJ has been reduced by almost 50 percent and this according to him does not augur well for the smooth operations of the Commission.
Other MPs who supported these submissions were the Minority Leader, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu; Minority Chief Whip, Fredrick Opare-Ansah.
The House later approved the budget estimates for three Ministries and two Departments.
They were the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, GH¢146,681,167; Ministry of Youth and Sports, GH¢45,773,162.07; and Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, GH¢113,045,554.
The rest were Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), GH¢4,206,832 and National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), GH¢5,044,605.
By Awudu Mahama & Sheilla Sackey