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Official pleads for adequate funds to carry out mandate

By Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 26, 2011) – The Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission will need up to PGK240 million [US$99.6 million] to prepare for next year’s General Election and PGK60 million [US$24.9 million] for the local level government elections, [a total of about US$125 million].

Parliament was told yesterday that it is racing against time to make necessary changes and prepare for the most important event in its five year calendar.

For the Commission, this is money it has not yet got and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Constitutional Matters, Mathew Potape, had pleaded with the Government to treat the matter as one of utmost urgency.

Mr Potape revealed the preliminary costing in Parliament when tabling the 48-page Report on the Conduct of the 2007 National Election in PNG.

"The 2012 national elections will be a costly investment to PNG but a very necessary one," Mr Potape said. "The very preliminary national elections cost estimates in 2012 will be in the range of K230 million – K240 million. The preliminary costing for the local-level elections will be in the range of K50 million – K60 million. We must all remember that these investments are for the future leaders that will lead PNG today and into a prosperous future."

Mr Potape emphasised that the PNG Electoral Commission was the constitutional body that should be well-funded and protected to carry out drastic electoral reforms to help the people elect their leaders democratically.

"This is when good leaders, both men and women, will be elected by our people," he said. Furthermore, he said, the electoral reforms should put PNG on par with Australia, New Zealand, the US and other countries around the world where the electoral process is not corrupt.

"I want to stress and highlight that the Commission is the constitutional body that must be well-funded and protected to carry out drastic electoral reforms so that it will assist our people elect their leaders democratically," his report to Parliament said.

For the 2007 elections, the Electoral Commission requested K125m but was given only K86.5m and after considerable correspondences with the Department of Treasury, the election budget was increased to K124.3 million.

The actual expenditure totalled K122.1m – 98.2 per cent of budget, something the Electoral Commissioner Mr Andrew Trawen described as an "excellent achievement".

Mr Trawen said in the report tabled in Parliament that if adequate funds were provided to prepare for the General Elections, "there is every possibility that we will run out of time and not be able to make the necessary changes in time for the election in 2012".

"I am greatly concerned that after all the good work preparing for the 2007 National Parliament Election, we will go backwards and once again experience many serious problems that have been the such a feature of elections in PNG in years gone by.

"To make ongoing improvements requires a reasonable level of funding without it, we will face serious problems," Mr Trawen said.

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