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Institutions seek bigger budgets

The Elections Commission warned MVR80 million was not enough for the parliamentary elections in March.



Senior officials from independent institutions met Tuesday night with parliament’s budget review committee and expressed concern with the annual budgets of their offices.

Elections Commission member Amjad Musthafa told MPs that MVR80 million (US$5.1 million) earmarked for the parliamentary elections in March was insufficient.

The EC anticipates higher expenditure than previous polls due to two new constituencies and plans to add more ballot boxes to solve the problem of long lines faced in September’s presidential election, Musthafa explained.

The commission also plans to create 14 permanent posts and outsource legal consultancy, he added, appealing for an additional MVR9 million.

The lack of adequate funding is a perennial complaint from independent institutions during the annual budget review process. During Tuesday’s meetings, lawmakers from both the opposition and ruling coalition noted the lack of fiscal space to grant more funds.

The budget committee is reviewing a record MVR29.6 billion (US$1.9 billion) budget proposed for 2019.

Along with the electoral body, the committee also invited officials from the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Judicial Administration, the Maldives National University, and the Islamic University of Maldives.

The budget allocated for the civil service was 19 percent smaller than requested, CSC chief Dr Ali Shameem told the committee.

The commission has been unable to attend overseas conferences due to declining amounts in its annual budget, he complained. The CSC was forced to appeal for more funds from the finance ministry each year as its budget was insufficient to pay out salaries and allowances.

A budget of MVR420 million was allocated for the judiciary but DJA officials told MPs an additional MVR87 million was needed for necessary expenses.

The appeal was met with criticism from lawmakers over stalled trials and politically motivated verdicts.

The national university asked for MVR50 million to be added to its MVR192 million budget. The Islamic university also wanted an injection of MVR40 million to its MVR35 million budget.

Both institutions noted the new administration’s pledge to offer tuition-free undergraduate courses in the country.

Officials from the Islamic university also complained of wage disparities between its staff and the national university’s staff.