More interest in allowances than elections

Prothom Alo reports, the Election Commission (EC) and the Ministry of Finance had differences over determining the honorarium of trainers in election training.

The EC fixed an honorarium of Tk 7,500 for each one and a half hour sessions (fixed time) for the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners as trainers. But the finance ministry disagreed. The honorarium fixed by EC of instructors on other posts has been reduced by the finance ministry. Earlier, the EC's proposal to purchase EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) was rejected by the finance ministry.

The commission believes that the finance ministry has no authority to reduce the remuneration fixed by the EC Secretariat. Officials of this constitutional institution say that according to the law, the Election Commission and the Election Commission Secretariat are independent in terms of administrative and economic works. But why doesn’t this independence reflect in conducting elections?

The key responsibility of the commission is to conduct free, fair and participatory elections. Was this agency able to hold that election? If not, why spend public tax money on training? An independent secretariat does not mean that they can do whatever they want. When the country is in dire economic crisis, it is inappropriate for the EC to insist on the amount of allowance.

First of all, it should be remembered that officials of EC including the CEC and commissioners get salary and other benefits from the government's revenue sector. Holding elections are their only responsibility. The last two national elections and the recent local government elections were neither fair nor participatory. The election commission is just following its regular course. Spending Tk 7,500 for every one and a half hour session on a trainer is completely futile.

The current EC may argue that they have retained the allowances for training that were fixed during the previous EC. Drawing example of previous EC example is not pleasant as there was a financial scandal during the commission led by KM Nurul Huda. The commission also created additional posts for training at the time. It will be very unfortunate if the current commission also follows that path.

Instead of insisting on the amount of allowance, EC should insist on fair election environment. The EC should focus on removing the visible and invisible obstacles. Election experts also said that the Election Commission and its officials receive government salaries and allowances. It is unreasonable to charge separate allowance for training.

The actions of the EC transpire that the agency is largely oblivious to their responsibility in conducting a fair, free and participatory election. Yet they are very eager about the allowance. Is the argument of EC being independent only applies to allowances? They do not hesitate to accept any unfair instruction of the government the rest of the time. We cannot hope for a fair and participatory elections until the EC gives up these contradictions in its actions.