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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 20, 2000 - The Independent)---Members of Parliament have received a total of K7,765,627 (2.9 million US$) from the National Gaming Board. About K3,300,000 (1.2 million US$) was handed out in cash while K2,664,800 (1 million US$) was used to purchase ambulances. Another K2,211,827 (850,000 US$) was allocated for other related purposes.

According to documents made available to The Independent, most of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) party members received assistance from the Gaming Board in 1999.

The party had about 42 members of parliament in their camp at the time of the disbursement.

Members formally write to the board requesting financial assistance. The board then deliberates at length before deciding on other requests for funding from the community.

The largest amount of K670,000 (268,000 US$) went to Alotau Open MP Iairo Lasaro. Records show he was allocated K600,000 in cash, K50,000 to an ambulance while K20,000 was intended for a school.

Jimi MP Bevan Tambi had the second highest, followed by Anglimp South Waghi MP Kuk Kuli.

A source has told The Independent that several members of parliament have complained that many of the ambulances bought using these funds were not working and needed repair.

Also, the documentation of some of the funding is highly ambiguous and lacks proper receipts.

The use of gaming board funds have been under scrutiny lately with the Morauta/Zeming government, which promises to pursue criminal charges.

The former registrar of the National Gaming Control Board, Paul Aisa, and his chairman, Daniel Mapiria, already have been charged for alleged misappropriation.

Such funds would not be available for members’ use given the government’s imposition of tax increases and the subsequent closure of poker machines.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta informed parliament that he would not rescind his decision on the taxes in the gaming sector. He said the games have brought too many social problems.

Sir Mekere said the taxes would reduce the annual revenue of K50 million to the national purse, but he’s confident the new economic measures being pursued by the government would meet that shortfall.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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