Allan Bird on his Campaign Expenditure in PNG Election 2012
With a record number 3435 candidates having nominated to contest the 2012 National Election for 111 seats, one wonders just how much money in terms of campaign expenditure has been spent by these candidates on their election campaigns.
Already, some losing candidates have gone public regarding the amount they acquitted on their election campaigns, the most recent being Paul Kurai who placed third in Wabag Open.
Kurai announced yesterday that he had spent K500,000 (AU$227,000) on his election campaign – an investment based on the request of his people to stand for election.
Allan Bird, who placed second after Sir Michael Somare in East Sepik Provincial, has also publicly commented on details surrounding his campaign budget, financial donations and expenditure.
In a comment on PNG Blogs, which has gone relatively unnoticed, Bird revealed the following:
“During the past 5 weeks I have noticed sitting MPs in particular and some candidates from the ruling parties hand out cash in villages.
In two instances, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the voters accepted the money and the alcohol but will vote for somebody else. I wait to see the voting results from those villages to confirm what they told me.
If they do what they say, I will be very pleased indeed to see the lack of influence money will have on the elections in East Sepik. The only thing that bothers me is this; if the people will accept money and vote for someone else, will the polling officials and the security forces also do the same?
I have spent about K230,000 on this election so far and am planning to spend another K20,000 on my scrutineers over the next 3 weeks (food & allowances). Funnily enough, if the campaign had gone on for more than 5 weeks, I do not think I would have afforded to do this.
My original budget was actually K200,000. I was able to save this money from my consulting work and commit it to the elections. My best friends contributed the balance.
I received no funding from my political party and did not expect any.
Some of my friends contesting in other seats have already spent millions of kina from what they have been telling me by phone. It has become a race because when the other candidate starts to spend money, you are expected to do the same.
I decided to buck the trend.
If I do get elected, it will not be because of how much money I have expended and it will be because money has not influenced our people in this part of the country. It will be because the people of East Sepik have decided that it is time to change.”
It is encouraging to see candidates like Allan Bird talk frankly about their campaign expenditure. This is an area of PNG politics which has for too long been shrouded in secrecy and is rarely opened up for the public to see.
Although there are rules prescribed by the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates around campaign financing, political donations and accountability in terms of financial returns and reports, these areas are not policed well enough for candidates and political parties to respect their shepherding in the first instance.
Money and politics are not exclusive to PNG. Politics everywhere is dependent on money to some degree, but in PNG our challenge is to ensure that a playing level field is adhered to by all candidates, and that the usage of public money and government machinery is not hijacked by sitting MPs to the disadvantage of challengers.
Public transparency of funds committed to and expended in elections would be a positive start in helping the public better understand the dynamics of electoral campaigns – for the issue isn’t really to do with money being used, but how money is being used.