The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) spent a total of Nu 28.55 million (M) on the candidates in the third National Council (NC), according to the election returns report released by the commission.

On an average, each of the 127 candidates spent Nu 224,809 for campaign purposes during the election, which was held in April this year.

The expenses included the campaign fund that is given in cash and the cost of sponsored activities such as public forums.

The ECB disbursed Nu 150,000 to each candidate. However, 96 candidates refunded a total of Nu 400,167 to the government exchequer.

Nima from Bumthang’s Tang gewog refunded Nu 75,091, which was the highest, followed by Jamtsho of Khar Gewog in Pema Gatshel, who refunded Nu 35,740. Tashi Phuntsho of Yalang Gewog in Trashiyangtse refunded Nu 32,250.

Besides the disbursement of cash, the ECB in its effort to ensure an effective election campaign also sponsored common forums, public debates, campaign materials and media access.

According to the ECB, about 49 percent of the total campaign fund was spent on hiring of vehicles and 29 percent on daily subsistence allowance for candidates and their representatives. Expenses on stationeries and communications accounted for about 16 and 4 percent, respectively.

Various candidates spent 0.9 percent of the total fund, which comes to Nu 256,950, on rent for office space and other miscellaneous expenditures.

The ECB stated that it observed differences in the pattern and amount of expenditure incurred by various candidates for meeting campaign expenses. However, these were found to be within the categories permissible under the Public Election Fund Act of 2008.

The election returns were also checked against the weekly report submitted by the candidates through national observers and returns were found to be consistent with the weekly expenditure reports.

The Royal Audit Authority audited the election returns, and all the audit observations have been resolved, according to the ECB.

The audit also made some recommendations, which will be proposed for approval by the commission and incorporation in the upcoming National Assembly elections. The proposals have not been released.

However, the total expenditures include only those spent on the candidates’ election campaign purposes. The ECB has not released how much was spent during the whole election period, including allowances for election officials.

Earlier this year, the ECB had earmarked Nu 250M for the third NC elections. This is a 68 percent increase from Nu 148.5M in 2013.

The ECB attributed the expenditure increase to factors such as the hike in civil servants’ TA/DA in 2014 and an increased number of candidates.

The number of candidates in 2013 was 67. The campaign fund ceiling for each candidate was revised from Nu 130,000 in 2013 to Nu 150,000.

MB Subba