1411 Gamato takes hardline position on conduct of 2017 polls

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has issued a stern warning that he will take a hard-line position on the behavior all election officials in the conduct of the 2017 national election. He made this known at the third election managers and assistant election managers workshop in Mt. Hagen, Western Highlands Province, last week.

The theme for the workshop was "change for improvement" which describes changes and reforms PNGEC is embarking on to see improvements in conducting election business, particularly preparations for the 2017 national election.

“Under my watch, I want to ensure that we all change our attitudes, our approaches and our ways of doing election business and manage costs of delivering the elections in a more reasonable and effective way.”

“I therefore charge every one of you Election Managers and Assistant Election Managers to manage and deliver the 2017 National & LLG elections in a more cost effective manner.”

“The issues of extravagant or excessive cost of elections are the things of the past,” he said.

Mr. Gamato pointed out that in the past there have been a lot of issues about election fraud, violence and intimidation which resulted in conflicts, failed elections and election petitions.

He strongly urged all election officials to refrain from those illegal activities including bribery and corruption, adding that a lot of election petitions go to court because of actions of election officials.

“If I get information that one Election Manager or Returning Officer receiving bribes and made decisions not in the best interest of PNGEC and the electoral process, I will not hesitate to refer that officer to police for criminal charges,” he warned.

Mr. Gamato said that in terms of managing 2017 election funds, PNGEC will use the experiences it gained from the stringent financial control mechanisms it put in place and used during the ​South Bougainville and Samarai-Murua by-elections which proved to be very successful in assisting the Commission make savings in the two by-elections.

The Commission made a saving of K1 million in the South Bougainville by-election and K800,000 in the Samarai-Murua by-election totaling K1.8 million

“We (PNGEC) have to kill the culture of election managers engaging service providers at will without due processes and procedures and incurring unnecessary election costs beyond budget ceilings.”

“All the provinces will be allocated their budgets but their expenditure will be controlled at the Commission headquarters in Port Moresby.”

He, however, said that provinces will be given some funding to meet the cost for fuel, stationary and other operational costs.

Mr. Gamato said that of the K400 million 2017 election budget K121 million will be for police security operations while K279 million will be for election operations – an increase of 40 percent from the 2012 election event budget.

For the 2012 election event, the National Government had allocated K180 million whereas for 2017 it allocated K279 million, an increase of K117 million.

Mr. Gamato outlined the 2017 election budget break-up as follows:

  • Logistics – K127.30 million
  • Finance – K73.56 million
  • Awareness – K15.00 million
  • Training of Temporary Election Workers – K7.00 million
  • Other Additional Costs (New Legal Fees) – K11 million

At total of K60 million will be used to settle PNGEC’s outstanding bills for the 2012 national election and 2013 LLG elections - K43 million for outstanding legal fees and K17 million for general service providers.

In the meantime, Mr. Gamato said the national government with the support of Inter-Department Election Committee (IDEC) has established a 2017 election trust account which will facilitate funds coming into PNGEC.

He said in the past PNGEC used the integrated financial management system (IFMS) to manage funds but what normally happens is that after all government accounts are closed, unused funds are returned to the Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF).

“With the trust account, PNGEC funds will be held back and used during the shut-down period.”

“This is a very good initiative by the government so we can still work up to December 2016 and January 2017 even if government accounts are still closed in the first and second months of 2017.”

Apart from the trust account, IDEC has also facilitated the establishment of a Specialized Supply and Tenders Board which has a threshold of K1 million.

This gives PNGEC some leverage to get expenditures above K500,000 threshold approved so that work can be done effectively and efficiently to deliver the election.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gamato said his expectations for the 2017 national election include:

  • Successful conduct and return of writs for the national election within the given time period;
  • Management of election funds with the K279 million budget;
  • Minimize election costs by 40 percent (K117 million);
  • Less outstanding service providers’ bills recorded in all provinces;
  • Less number of election petitions filed after the election;
  • Access for women and girls to polling stations to vote; and
  • Access for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups of people to polling stations to cast their votes.



ALPHONSE MUAPI
Media Consultant
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