The National, Thursday July 4th, 2013
By MOUA OMOA
service providers from last year’s general election in Mendi have locked out Electoral Commission staff from the office in frustration over outstanding payments.
Mendi election manager David Wakias and his staff were forced to vacate their office yesterday morning by disgruntled service providers after failing to pay outstanding bills.
It is believed there was a confrontation after a negative response from Wakias and the service providers said they would exchange the keys to the building with their cheque payments.
The office will be locked, with just 11 days before local level government elections start.
Wakias confirmed the incident saying that his officers were not able to enter the office.
He said about K1.2 million is owned to service providers in the province.
A similar incident was reported in Port Moresby yesterday morning with another frustrated service provider engaging in a rowdy confrontation with the Electoral Commission accounts staff at the headquarters at Hohola.
The Electoral Commission headquarters kept its front door locked with tight security yesterday afternoon after the confrontation.
It is believed the service provider was frustrated over having to wait almost five weeks for his payment.
Waiting outside the headquarters building yesterday afternoon was another service provider and local businessman Timothy Kiap, who travelled from Mt Hagen hoping to get his payment.
He has been waiting for over two weeks.
“I have used my own resources to travel from Hagen to Port Moresby over five times to collect my payment but am still waiting,” Kiap said.
“It seems payments for small businesses who are genuine service providers are still pending while all the corporate companies have been paid and this is not right.”
Kiap and other services providers, including local container businessmen Philbert Horaki and Kelly Joseph, warned of a sit-in protest at the Hohola headquarters tomorrow.
Attempts to get comments from Electoral Commission officials were unsuccessful.
Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenouc said he was unaware that the electoral office in Mendi had been shut down.
He said he would meet with the electoral commissioner to discuss the local level government elections and other issues including this.