Time is of the essence!

The National Government has been urged to honour its commitment in funding the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Time is of the essence as the people of Bougainville have only six months left before they go to the polls on October 12th.

Though the Government has pledged K30 million to BRC – which was to be paid in three tranches – the Commission has only received K8.7 million of the funding.

Chief Referendum Officer, Mauricio Claudio, said April 11th was the deadline for the second tranche. The third K10 million is expected no later than May 11th.

“Funding has already had a negative impact on the enrolment process,” Claudio told journalists during a recent conflict sensitive reporting workshop in Buka.

“This is not an academic statement, meaning that the lack of funding has already contributed to the degradation of the enrolment process and it’s actually stoppage; we had gotten phase one enrolment underway last year but we had to stop it due to lack of funds.”

Furthermore, the BRC is currently unable to access funding received from the national and Autonomous Bougainville governments. The funds – K8.7m from PNG and K1m from the K2m commitment from ABG – have been parked in the BRC trust account.

“Right now the BRC is still putting in place mechanisms to be able to draw those funds,” he said.

“We are not able to spend those (funds) because we don’t have the systems to spend and we don’t have the systems to track and account for that funding.

“These factors are already having negative consequences on the quality and on the preparations for the referendum.”

Phase one involves roll verification, where the BRC compares the 2015 ABG voter roll with ward records and ‘cleans’ the voter roll by removing anybody who should not be on it, for example, if they are deceased or have moved overseas. This phase is expected to be completed this month.

Phase two is house to house enrolment, where the ward recorder will visit each household to add the names of eligible people who were not on the 2015 ABG voter roll. All eligible voters have the responsibility to meet the ward recorders when they visit their areas. This phase will start in May.

The final phase involves public display, where the Referendum Roll will be displayed publicly in each ward. Voters will have the opportunity to check their name and details, and revert to their ward recorder if anything is amiss. This phase should start in July.

(Chief Referendum Officer, Mauricio Claudio)

Carmella Gware