TIME TO AUDIT FREE-SPENDING PNG PARLIAMENT

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Aug. 27) - The demand by former Opposition Leader Peter O’Neill for an immediate audit of the accounts of the National Parliament is in order and should be acted on as a matter of priority.

For a long time, concerns have been raised about the way the National Parliament spends public funds without demonstrating accountability and transparency in the way that is done. A government committee has recommended that budgetary allocations to the National Parliament be carefully scrutinized to ensure accountability of the funds allocated.

Now, Mr. O'Neill who is a caretaker minister in the new Somare Government has called for an immediate audit of the way public funds are spent by Parliament. O’Neill made the call after the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Bart Philemon called on him to explain why there was only PGK7,071.88 [US$2,524.23] in the Opposition's account.

Mr. Philemon raised the concern when saying the Opposition’s budget of PGK800,000 [US$285,551] for this year has already been spent with five more months still remaining in the year. This has shocked O’Neill who says he has always been working on the assumption that the Opposition’s budget was PGK800,000.

Where did the additional funds come from and where have these funds gone? Who spent the extra money and for what purpose? As both Philemon and O’Neill have now discovered, the Opposition’s budget had been increased to PGK2,153,865 [US$768,798]. How did that happen?

Could it be that there is a scam within the Parliamentary service that is siphoning off public funds through the various votes of Parliament? Who is involved in the scam and how much money has been siphoned off through the scam? How far back does this scam go? These are questions -- among many others -- that must be asked and answers looked for as a matter of urgency.

We suggest very strongly that a commission of inquiry be established to inquire into this matter and ensure that the accounts of Parliament are transparent and that systems of accountability and governance are working effectively. We make the suggestion of a commission of inquiry mindful of the fact that the Department of Finance Commission of Inquiry is still in a limbo about its future.

This important inquiry must be restored in order to complete its important task. So while that inquiry remains in limbo, we still need another inquiry for the Parliamentary accounts. The dignity and integrity of the National Parliament must always be protected at all times and no questions should ever be raised about its spending of public funds.

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