PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 5) – It is a sad state of affairs in Papua New Guinea when a leading bureaucrat says his officers are scared to give evidence about a government department.

That is the impression given by Monday’s evidence at the Public Accounts Committee hearing into the Finance Department.

Deputy Auditor-General Pona Kawa said the government auditors were afraid to investigate Finance. His office was under resourced and also did not want to "draw unnecessary attention to ourselves."

What a dismaying confession to make! And this is followed up by the news that the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, is thinking of asking for an Australian judge to be brought in to assist investigations into the troubled Finance Department.

What is the real state of play with the department entrusted with spending our taxes? Heads have rolled there recently, both the department head and the minister. Yet government officers are still scared to do anything about the reported mess within the department.

Allegation after allegation has been surfacing at PAC hearings and at other venues and the taxpayers of this nation are entitled to be worried and angry. Worried that their hard earned money is being frittered away or stolen by white collar criminals; and angry that they will not get the quality of service that they are entitled to.

In case the politicians and bureaucrats have forgotten, that is the basic premise of governments applying taxes on their citizens and residents . . . to take money off the people and businesses so that government can provide the roads, hospitals, schools, electricity and other essential services that the people need and expect.

If those taxes are being misused or misdirected, what further need is there for a government? However, we are not about to suggest that we stop paying taxes and fend for ourselves. What we do believe is that the Government must be made more accountable for its stewardship of our money, the taxes that are taken out of our fortnightly wages, out of the bosses’ profits and from the village growers’ cash crop cheques.

This is where all of these groups should be tackling the politicians as they start looking for our votes: What has happened to all the money going into the clutches of the leaders and the high-level public servants? They must be made to account for the spending . . . or run the risk of going to Bomana prison!

July 6, 2006

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