The National, Thursday November 7th, 2013
By JAYNE SAFIHAO
THE question of whether there will be a by-election for the Madang open seat remains to be seen as the Electoral Commission remains non-committal in settling outstanding debts.
A meeting yesterday by the provincial election steering committee chaired by provincial administrator Ben Lange with Electoral Commission deputy commissioner operations and administration Steven Yakali did not find a solution to the immediate financial problem.
Provincial election manager Cyril Retaw said there were no posititve outcomes of the meeting in terms of the commission’s commitment to settle outstanding debts.
The outstanding debts relate to last year’s general election service providers’ bills and the recent local level government (LLG) counting officials’ allowances for 17 of the 19 LLGs.
Three petitions were presented at different times, firstly to Electoral Commission human resource boss Cesley Sevaru during a training workshop early this year; then by Steven Mapikwari representing the 2012 counting officials and most recently by Usino-Bundi district election officials.
In all their petitions, the cry was for immediate payment for the debts.
A call into the 2012 national budget expenses has been highlighted while the blame shifting rests with Retaw over the current dilemma since he took office from former manager, Emily Siamoli.
Retaw said K2.5 million had been given for the by-election but talks were that some of the previous debts would be settled from this budget.
Returning officer Adolf Duangha indicated that this could not be logical as their office would still be in the red to run the by-election.
Currently, all electoral staff are without an office since the barring of the doors to their offices at the end of last month.
They have no access to the shed containing all election material as there is an outstanding of K27,000 yet to be paid and they have been warned by frustrated service providers and unpaid counting officials that if they were seen conducting business anywhere there would be trouble.
“We have been warned them. We take this as a serious matter.
“Where can we conduct preparations for this election? We cannot say there will be no election, but ask whether there will be one,” Duangha said.
An estimated K4 million is owed to service providers for the 2012 elections.