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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 25) - The abuse of funds remains the main cause of delays in acquittal of funds, and the Office of Rural Development (ORD) believes that the problem will continue.

The ORD said that it released PGK49.5 million [US$17.7 million] in constitutional grants this month and retained PGK5 million [US$1.7 million] because full accountability requirements had not been met.

It released PGK75.1 million [US$26.8 million] under the Public Investment Programme (PIP) and has retained PGK6.1 million.

"Come year’s end, the fiscal year will lapse and this money (PGK6.1 million) will go back to the consolidated revenue funds," acting director Paul Sai’i said.

"The message is if you do not account for PIP funds, you miss out on future allocations."

He was speaking to more than 100 participants at the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council’s (CIMC) National Development Forum in Parliament House yesterday.

Mr. Sai’i said 99 electorate (or 91 percent) had fully acquitted the use of their funds.

Ten others have not been cleared and the ORD has withheld PGK11.1 million.

Six of these are in Papua, three in the New Guinea Islands and one in the Highlands.

Sai’i said that from their experience, the abuse of funds would continue.

"We feel this is the main cause of delays in acquittals of funds although the slow progress in implementing the Treasury rollout program may be a factor as well," he said.

"In any case, we have seen a lot of our district officials put behind bars and Members being investigated as a result of abuse."

Sai’i said the Minister for National Planning and District Development had publicly given his commitment to stamp out abuse of funds and to institute proper planning and budget controls at the district level.

"This is a tough call since most districts and in many cases, their infrastructure does not allow them to fully implement the requirements of the current budget and PIP processes. Nevertheless, ORD will proceed to make this happen."

It will begin by reviewing the guidelines and testing them out at certain districts.

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