PNG AGRICULTURE AGENCY PROBED FOR FRAUD

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By Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 28) - Two directors are among 41 employees who face being fired from the Agriculture and Livestock Department for fraud amounting to a few million kina each year.

They are alleged to have claimed various types of allowances and in huge amounts, even when they were not on duty.

A total of 78 charges are being prepared against the 41.

The expose follows a three-week investigation, which has so far covered only a third of the department’s staff.

"We could wipe out 75 percent or more of the department when all disciplinary charges are completed," secretary Matthew Wela Kanua told The National.

He believes that almost K5 million (US$1.5 million) is lost each year through cheating, stealing, and the Concept Payroll System implemented two years ago had only contributed to the problem.

Kanua said unbudgeted discrepancies, ranging from higher duty allowances, domestic market allowances to special pays, amounted to more than K1.6 million each year.

"Because of the allowances, some of them are getting more than what I and my two deputies receive fortnightly," he said.

"This has been going on since the 1970s and I suspect it is also happening in other government departments."

"It is only the tip of the iceberg."

"Nothing has been done to correct the situation as many senior staff were also involved," he said.

Karua said that on average, many of the employees were absent for a total of five to six months a year.

Despite that, they still got paid and paid well, he said.

He described the Concept Payroll System as a "fallacy."

"It is accommodating and facilitating fraud because it does not have enough validation."

"It allows personnel and administration staff to collude with others to defraud the State," he said.

Karua said he was determined to weed out "corrupt staff, thieves and deadwood" to restore credibility in the department.

He said he would rotate his staff to take over the responsibilities of those dismissed until new ones were recruited.

October 29, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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