By Kebba Jeffang
The Chairman of National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) Sereign Fye said mobility, low budget and less staff, constrains his office from delivering the much needed awareness service to the public.
He however said despite this, they have been engaging people in remote communities in the country.
“Presently we have about four vehicles that are running. Among this four, it is only one that is roadworthy as the other three are getting a lot from us for maintenance cost. In fact, three quarters of our budget, goes to vehicle maintenance,” he said. Fye described the condition of the vehicles as ‘difficult to use’ indicating that they are very old; that they are struggling to maintain them because they cannot work without vehicles.
“Basically we have only one vehicle working that was given to us five months ago. Apart from this the other three are dead,” he said.
He confirmed that both the past and present governments are aware of this challenge, pointing out that the previous government issued a directive for the Ministry of Finance to allocate them with three vehicles which could not materialize; that they again wrote to the new government about mobility problems.
According to him, the government responded by giving them one vehicle which is currently the only one in use; that they have written back to the Office of the President to indicate that one vehicle is not enough for their office considering the community outreach programmes. “People are really relying on the NCCE and we know the challenges. The only way we can do is to have vehicles because all our money is going into vehicle maintenance,” Fye said.
Meanwhile, he transitioned to the low budgeting of his office which he said is heavily underpinning their operations.
“In the previous government we were subvented every month but the budget allocation keeps fluctuating. There was no permanent figure that was coming and unfortunately in the month of January, we did not have any subvention. We only have subvention for eleven months. That is from February to December. I don’t know the reason behind this. The figure normally is about 3 million and monthly it is about D300, 000,” he disclosed.
He explained that, it is out of this sum that they use to pay their overhead costs, vehicle maintenance, treks, seminars, interparty workshops; women etc. to encourage them vie for elections. He said they normally forego so many things because the budget is insufficient.
“This year, I don’t have the figure for the budget but I know what we submitted will help us to go a long way as we planned a lot including decentralization of our office. Also to employ more staff because employment happens if you have space to put them in. If we have a permanent office, then we can bring in more people because the work is challenging.” Fye hinted the plan to professionalize the institution by ensuring that staff is well-trained so that they can carry out the mandate.
“We have almost 30 staff which is small. We currently have just about eight staff that are involved in community outreach programmes. They cannot all go at once because we don’t have many vehicles. The only vehicle plying can only carry five people. Sometimes, we travel with journalists and unfortunately sometimes, they are carried at the back of the pickup and that is not good,” he said.
He said since he took over the Chairmanship, there has not been any government interference as the institution is non-partisan, non-bias and is to enlighten citizens without discrimination. He showed appreciation for his office being removed from under the Office of the President.
“That will be very good. If we can be independent and have our own budget line like the Independent Electoral Commission,” he said as he responded to a question. He said both NCCE and the government are thinking along that line to make sure the NCCE is not an institution under the Office of the President.
On partnership, he encouraged the Inter-party Committee and civil society groups to collaborate in order to penetrate every part of the country. “We should partner so that the places we cannot reach, they can cover. We are open to any group, youth organizations, institutions and any individuals,” he said.