$31 MILLION IN PNG ELECTION FUNDS MISSING

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 6) – The Papua New Guinea Ombudsman Commission has started an investigation to recoup more than PGK90 million [US$30.9 million] in electoral funds that had gone missing through "questionable procedures" within three months.

Yesterday, the commission said it would find the money and return it to the new Government.

The funds were released by the Office of Rural Development following a stay order taken out by the Ombudsman Commission to prevent further release of funds to Members of Parliament as normal procedures were not being followed.

The missing K90 million is part of the K200 million [US$68.7 million] slush fund, that was earmarked for delivery to districts and electorates throughout the country.

Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno and Ombudsman John Nero said this yesterday as they deliberated on a National Court decision last Friday which enforced the direction to stop the payment of slush funds to the MPs. The two Ombudsmen said the leaders (MPs) were lying and coming through many illegal ways to get the funds.

"Get the funds following the normal procedures. Follow the Public Finance Management Act," Mr Nero said.

"The politicians must not lie. You are only tricking yourselves and the people you serve. These are the people’s money, get it through the normal procedures and provide service to the people,’’ he said.

Ombudsmen Nero and Geno said one reason why these funds were going out was the Office of Rural Development was not functioning well.

They said such illegal activities could only happen because the Government offices involved might not be working well.

The two Ombudsmen said they were not trying to stop the leaders from getting the electoral funds, instead they were only reminding them to follow the procedures in the Public Finance Management Act.

"It seems that they are not reading the Act and their executives are not informing them of what to do after or before they get the funds," Mr Nero said.

He said whether the missing funds were acquitted or not was not the question

The two Ombudsmen said they had another problem which was to find where the money was and bring it back so the next government could use it

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