The National Election Committee spent some $1.5 million less than it was allotted for last year’s parliamentary elections, according to a committee draft report.
About $500,000 of the windfall was returned to the Finance Ministry, and the rest was absorbed into a UN trust fund, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said.
Much of the savings were accrued by cutting the number of polling station officers and counting center employees, he said.
The Cambodia Daily reported last month that the NEC vastly overspent its budget, but the provisional document cited in that article did not account for all its revenue sources. About $5.75 million for the elections came from donor countries, mostly through the UN Development Program. The government allotted over $6 million.
The report, which will eventually go to the National Assembly, shows the committee spent $10,397,293 of $11,976,332 received to organize and administer the elections.
The elections cost significantly less than in 1998, when total spending was about $30 million, but NEC officials predicted that the next general election in 2008 would be more expensive—mostly because new trucks, motorbikes and technical equipment will need to be purchased.
“The next elections will cost more money, because last year most of the election materials were left over from 1998,” NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said.
Tep Nitha said the committee was appealing to keep some of last year’s money to update the voter registration list and computer equipment.
Some questioned why the money did not go to voter registration before the election. Registration problems have been consistently cited by the opposition and election observers as a black mark on last year’s polls.
The NEC “always argues that they don’t have enough money for the voter registration or voter education programs…. I don’t know why they spend less,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)