Budget cut a worry says PNG Electoral Commissioner

PORT MORESBY, 16 AUGUST 2018 (POST COURIER) – Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato is concerned that he may be under-funded to conduct the Local Level Government (LLG) elections next year.

He said he had asked for at least K289 million (US$88.6 million) for the elections, which had been postponed this year in order to settle outstanding payments to ward members.

Gamato said that the National Executive Council had slashed more than K100 million (US$30.6 million) from what he had wanted to conduct the postponed elections. His proposed budget was about the same as the budget for the 2017 National Elections.

He said the budget cut is now a huge challenge to deliver the LLG elections and because of that he has appealed to provincial governments and district development authorities to help tackle geographical, communication and transport issues.

Gamato said the cut means that he would have K150 million (US$46 million) for the exercise.

“I have received the National Executive Council (NEC) decision and I am happy that the government has decided to defer the LLG elections. It gives us more time to prepare,” he said.

“But we still have to deliver the electoral service to our people who are out there in the remote areas, the challenges, the geographical challenges, the communication and transport challenges are still there. With the reduced budget I am hoping that the provincial governments and the district development authorities can come in to support us deliver the LLG elections.

“I emphasise that the budget has been reduced from K289m (US$88.6 million). Obviously we will need support from the provinces to support us to effectively deliver the LLG elections in 2019.”

Gamato said the K100 million (US$30.6 million) funding allocated for the 2018 LLG elections was removed because the government wanted to pay the outstanding allowances for the presidents and ward members.

“I have now received the copy of the decision by NEC that was actually delivered to me this morning (Wednesday), so the deferral of the LLG election is to April 2019.”

Gamato said among the NEC decisions, the government had decided to reinstate funding to K150 million for the commission to conduct the LLG elections and to have a legislative change on the LLG elections to be conducted two years after the national election and the return of writs after 14 days.

“This means if we conduct LLG elections, we have to conduct within 14 days and return the writs, the returning officers for the LLG elections will be the CEOs of DDAs, which we will implement these decisions. Secondly, the system of election for 2019 will be the limited preferential voting (LPV) system, not first past the post, that is because the government has not changed the law. We are now working on the polling schedules and appointments of the returning officers and I will sign it off before it goes to the Government Printer for gazettal,” he said.

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