The local government elections are over and we know who lost and who won. But there are others who win all the time. We all have heard of the ubiquitous elections monitoring organisations that hold press conferences during elections. The operators of these Non-Governmental Organisations are the real winners in this game. To just take one such organisation the Center for Policy Alternatives as an example, the money that flows in at election time is enough to make the mouth of the most corrupt politician water. The Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has its election monitoring arm styled the ‘Center for Monitoring Election Violence’ (CMEV) and when the government calls an election, they go around to the western embassies in Colombo collecting money to monitor the polls. This is done by all the foreign funded elections monitoring organisations in Colombo. The money that flows in is mind boggling. To just take the CPA for example, the funding that came in for just the presidential election last year was as follows.
This is not an exhaustive list, and could be only the tip of the iceberg. We have no idea of how much they got in total and we mention here only the transactions about which we have received information.
Presidential Elections January 2010 -
Netherlands Ministry for Development Cooperation - Rs. 20.6 million (Project duration -1/12/2009 to 31/3/2010)
The German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs – Rs. 22.4 million (project duration 1/1/2010 – 31/3/2010)
British High Commission, Colombo - Rs 3 million for the Eastern province only (Project duration 15/12/2009 to 31 January 2010)
US Department of State – 90,000 US$ (Over Rs. 10 million) for publicity campaign against election violence for both the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2010.
If we go by the above, and we divide the American grant into two, the CPA has got something like Rs. 51 million for the presidential election alone.. They could have got much more and only they can come clean on how much they received. They received Rs 51 million to spend in a matter of eight weeks during the presidential elections. This in a situation where the same kind of work was being done by other foreign funded NGOs like PAFFREL and CAFÉ as well. The hardworking taxpayers of America, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands have to foot the bill - for what purpose?
Isn’t there a more efficient way to get elections monitored than to duplicate and reduplicate the same work by a multiplicity of foreign funded monitoring organisations? Why not tell each of these many organisations to take care of just one or two provinces so that the work is not duplicated by other organisations receiving funding for the same purpose from the same sources? And in any case, we would like to hear from the CPA, how they spent Rs. 51 million in a matter of eight weeks and on what. Except the British, none of the other donors have asked for a detailed breakdown of the projected expenditure before the money was released. The project to monitor just the Eastern province funded by the British has an item called ‘Rent’ which is Rs 1.12 million. But the duration of the project is only six weeks. How can rent in the eastern province be over Rs 1.1 million for six weeks? Then there is an item called ‘media monitoring’ in this eastern province costing Rs. 500,000. What is the ‘media’ in the eastern province? Does the CPA mean to say that the media was not monitored on a national level when they had so much money coming in from the Netherlands, America and Germany for the same purpose? So work is not only being duplicated among the NGOs, it is also duplicated within each NGO so that money can be received from various sources for the same activity.
In the British funded project for the east, there are other items like payment for field monitors (Rs. 240,000) and for stationary monitors in the polling booths (Rs.310,000) How many of these monitors were really employed and how much were they paid per day? The same questions can be raised about how the rest of the colossal amount of Rs 48 million from the Dutch, Germans and Americans was spent.
We do not know how much the CPA received for the parliamentary elections of 2010. But we know that they got a grant of Rs. 13 million from the Dutch Minister for development Cooperation to monitor the parliamentary election during the period 1st March to 31 July 2010. To this has to be added the other half of the American grant of $ 90,000 which was for both elections and hence the CPA had something in excess of Rs.18 million for the parliamentary election according to the available information. How much they got from other sources not revealed to anyone, is a matter of speculation. Would it be far-fetched to assume that they may have got the same amount as during the presidential election? The CPA should come clean in the interests of transparency by publishing on their websites detailed summaries of how the money coming into their organisation was spent on these projects. Details such as to whom rent was paid and the names of those who have received payment as employees have to be revealed together with the exact amounts that was spent per meal etc. The people have to know how the millions coming in for their benefit is being spent by the self appointed guardians of good governance in this country. Publishing these details on their websites costs next to nothing, and will go a long way towards addressing the suspicions in many people’s minds that this NGO business is one colossal scam.