PNG LAWMAKERS GET FUNDS FOR APPROVING BUDGET

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By Daniel Korimbao

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 29) – Some Members of Parliament who had threatened to block the 2007 Budget received their electoral funds despite failing to meet requirements, including submitting acquittals for the expenditure of funds for the previous year, sources have revealed.

This is in direct violation of a direction from the Ombudsman Commission, and could lead to the prosecution of various public office holders, including the Ministers for Treasury and Finance and Planning and their departmental heads, under the Leadership Code.

The passage of the 2007 Budget last month had to be delayed on a number of occasions because Members of Parliament, many of them Government back benchers, had demanded that they be given their district development funds, in its various forms, before they support the budget.

A source in Vulupindi Haus told The National that cheques were raised for a number of MPs, addressed to their district offices and not in the MPs names, but declined to give the exact figure released.

The source said they were under pressure to release the funds despite receiving the warning from the Ombudsman Commission.

The commission, concerned about the expenditure of funds with a general election looming, issued a direction on Nov 27, 2006, to stop all payments of such funds without complying with the proper process set in law.

The direction was issued under section 27(4) of the Constitution, and addressed to Minister for Finance and Planning, Minister for Treasury, the heads of their departments, the director of Office of Rural Development, all provincial administrators, district administrators and district treasurers.

The direction was signed by Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno and ombudsmen Peter Masi and John Nero.

The commission expressed concern that with a substantial amount of money being released with an election looming, there was insufficient time for the funds to be properly applied and there these funds could be misapplied or misused.

It directed them to;

n Stop the release of, disbursement, transfer or receipt of public money purporting to be in the form of electoral or discretionary funds for the fiscal year 2005 and 2006;

n Stop the payment of all cheques or warrants dated on or about Jan 1 2005 drawn on any bank in PNG, which could be in the form of these various discretionary funds; and,

n Transfer to the consolidated revenue funds at the end of 2006 fiscal year, all public funds in respect of the various programmes that are not committed to the relevant projects.

The commission said funds should only be released if the Public Finance Management Act and other financial instructions and guidelines were followed.

The commission warned that anyone who failed to comply with the direction would be guilty of misconduct in office and be liable for prosecution under the Leadership Code.

Legal counsel for the Ombudsman Commission Nemo Yalo told The National yesterday they have not received anything since the direction was issued to suggest if it (the direction) was being implemented or not.

He said those who have been found to have breached the direction would be prosecuted.

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