Tunisia – The Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP), on Wednesday, approved the budget of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) for 2024. A total of 101 MPs voted in favour, 16 against and 21 abstained.
The approved payment credits amount to TND 192,469,000, while the commitment credits are around the same amount.
Responding to the MPs, ISIE President Farouk Bouasker stressed that the authority's independence is a guarantee for the electorate and not a privilege for its members. This independence gives legal and constitutional legitimacy to all elected bodies.
Furthermore, Bouasker stressed that the administrative and financial management of the ISIE is governed by legal texts, including the law establishing the authority and the law on the Court of Auditors. All expenditure is carefully audited, he added.
Responding to concerns about the allocated budget, which some MPs considered substantial, Bouasker explained that a significant part of the funds is used to settle bills from ministries and other entities involved in the organisation of various elections. This includes the payment of salaries to temporary workers, who number 40,000 during election periods, while the permanent staff of the ISIE does not exceed 270 people.
Bouasker also reminded of the costs associated with the second round of local elections in February 2024 and the organisation of the presidential elections in the same year.
He clarified that it is the government and not the electoral authority that determines the remuneration of the members of the ISIE Board. In order to control certain expenses, the authority is considering merging some of its offices located in the same governorate, particularly with regard to the cost of maintaining the fleet of vehicles and the premises of local offices.
He was quick to dispel rumours about the ISIE's alleged mobilisation of one million dinars for the purchase of two vehicles, correcting that this amount was earmarked for the purchase of 11 new cars to rejuvenate the aging fleet.
On local elections, Farouk Bouasker reiterated that the authority was open to both public and private media and civil society. He justified cooperation with the public media on the grounds that they pose fewer control problems.
In this context, he recalled that the control of audiovisual media during the electoral campaign is regulated by Decree-Law 8/2023, which abolished the joint decision with the High Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication.
The ISIE President also highlighted the difficulties faced by candidates in opening bank accounts, in particular the refusal of private banks to open short-term accounts, despite the Central Bank's circular on the matter. To address this issue, the ISIE has held a number of meetings with representatives of the Central Bank and the Tunisian Post Office, he assured.
Bouasker stressed the importance of timely financial deposits to avoid sanctions, including the withdrawal of mandates, and underlined the commitment to enforce the law on electoral and accounting offences, stressing that the final decision rests with the judiciary.
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