Election funds diverted

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ELECTORAL Commissioner Patilias Gamato has expressed concern that K20 million of election funds was diverted from the Electoral Commission’s account to the Government’s free education policy.
A total of K40 million in election funds was released by the Finance Department last week to PNGEC’s account but only K20 million was uploaded, the other K20 million was removed.
Gamato said the K20 million removed was money earmarked for the purchase of big  items such as ballot boxes, plastic security  seals, indelible ink, voting compartments, stationary and t-shirts for polling and counting officials.
“If the Government is serious about appropriately funding PNGEC to deliver a good election that is free, fair, safe and inclusive, then it must release election funds in a timely manner,” Gamato said.
“PNGEC has yet to settle the allowances for enrolment agents and wages for data processing officers entering elector data in the provincial data centres totalling over K7 million. Outstanding allowances for enrolment agents yet to be paid by the commission stand at K7 million, while wages for data processing offices stand at K70,000,” he said.
“Non-payment of allowances and wages dating back to 2016 has resulted in the electoral roll update work being affected,” Gamato said.
He said provinces affected included Morobe, East Sepik, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands, Enga, West Sepik, Madang, Southern Highlands, Bougainville, Gulf and Western. “I call on the Government to release and upload Electoral Commission funds quickly, so that we can pay our service providers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gamato said all the 10 million ballot papers for the provincial seats an d open seats would be unpacked in Port Moresby and repacked according to enrolment figures for each electorate before they are dispatched.
He was responding to questions by the Vice-Minister for Mining Wera Mori last week in Parliament as to whether the Electoral Commission would unpack and check all the ballot papers before dispatching them to Indonesia.
Gamato said ballot papers for the past eight elections were always unpacked and repacked according to the number of voters on the electoral roll in each electorate and the commission would do  the same this year.
“The ballot papers will be handled under tight security because they are very sensitive election material,” he said.