Sat, 21 Jun 2003

Lack of funds haunts Panwaslu

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Efforts to hold a fair and just election next year are negotiating a tough challenge due to financial shortages facing the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu), an official said on Friday.

Panwaslu deputy chairman Saut Hamonangan Sirait said the government had promised to allocate only Rp 200 billion at the most to finance the operation of the committee this year. The commitment was far below Panwaslu's budget proposal for the same period, which amounts to Rp 1.1 trillion (US$134 million). For next year, it has proposed Rp 900 billion.

"The lack of funds may badly affect the committee's performance in the future," Saut told reporters after a joint meeting with the General Elections Commission (KPU) here.

The meeting, which mainly discussed the budget for Panwaslu, was attended by representatives of the KPU, the Panwaslu and the Ministry of Finance's Directorate General for Budget.

Saut said the directorate general revealed during the meeting that the ministry could not provide extra funds.

Of its budget this year, Panwaslu will spend Rp 35.462 billion on operational costs of the central Panwaslu, Rp 132.283 billion for provincial Panwaslu, Rp 413.336 billion for regental and municipal Panwaslu, and the remaining Rp 513.68 billion to district Panwaslu.

The central Panwaslu has nine members, while provincial and regental Panwaslu have five members each.

The budget for the Panwaslu is far above the expenses of the same institution during the 1999 election, which amounted to Rp 3.744 billion.

Facing the limited funds for this year, Saut said that the Panwaslu was ready to cut transportation and insurance fees for its officials.

He said the central and regional Panwaslu would turn to both central and regional governments for more funds.

Both central and provincial Panwaslu have been established since May, and now the provincial supervisory committee is working to set up committees at the lower administrative level.

For the time being, in order to operate its daily activities, both central and provincial Panwaslu are using funds from the KPU, because the government has yet to disburse its funds.

The KPU has disbursed Rp 2 billion for the central Panwaslu, and Rp 50 to 70 million for each provincial Panwaslu.

During the meeting, the KPU, the Panwaslu and the Directorate General for Budget agreed to establish a joint committee, which is expected to formulate ways to tackle the Panwaslu's shortage of funds in the run-up to the 2004 election.

The general election is scheduled to be conducted on April 5 next year.