FORMER PNG MINISTER UNDER CORRUPTION PROBE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 6) – The Papua New Guinea Public Accounts Committee has referred a former agriculture minister to the Ombudsman Commission for further investigation for alleged breaches of the Leadership Code.

And the entire PNG Cocoa Board and management have been referred to the Public Prosecutor and police for further action due to failure to comply with the requirements of public accountability, fiscal checks and breaches of the criminal code.

Acting chairman Chris Haiveta, in handing down the inquiry’s findings yesterday, said the PAC found that the former minister had given unlawful directions to the board in respect of the Stabilisation Fund.

The inquiry was also told that the Agriculture and Livestock secretary, an ex officio on the PNG Cocoa Board, was paid allowances from the board and the department.

Committee member and Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya described it as "double dipping" and Mr Haiveta said such practice was "unacceptable" and needed to be reviewed.

"He gets normal government rate allowance for board sittings and I don’t know why he is getting paid higher allowance by the board."

The PAC heard that the former minister was paid a duty allowance of PGK3,740 [US$1,300] to attend a brief meeting in Rabaul.

"Why is the minister receiving duty allowance when he has already received ministerial allowance?"

Chief executive officer of the Cocoa Board Mr Lauatu Tautea said the secretary directed the board to pay the minister’s allowance because the department did not have funds.

Mr Haiveta intervened, saying the secretary was a board member and could not control and direct the board to pay government expenses.

"It is very shameful," Mr Haiveta said.

The inquiry also heard that the minister directed that PGK170,000 [US$59,000] be set aside from the Stabilisation Fund for his discretionary use.

July 7, 2006

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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