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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 3) – Members of Parliament who head parliamentary committees in Papua New Guinea have voted to give themselves a rise in their allowances, and other perks and privileges that would cost taxpayers between PGK20 million [US$7.4 million] and PGK30 million [US$11 million].

They voted for the rise in their allowances, additional funding, purchase of vehicles, and hiring of additional staff members during a meeting of chairmen of parliamentary committees late last year.

Their push for the rise is contained in resolutions now before Deputy Speaker Francis Marus. It must be approved by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission and then Parliament before being effected.

There are 36 permanent, referral and standing committees in the PNG Parliament.

The November meeting, which approved the rise in perks and privileges, was attended by 18 parliamentary committee chairmen.

Documents obtained by The National show that the chairmen agreed during the meeting that K250,000 be allocated each year for each committee to perform their duties. That amounts to K9 million a year for all the committees.

They also unanimously agreed that special/select allocation of K40,000 per annum be increased to K100,000 to enable chairmen to recruit professional staff to assist them.

The permanent and referral committees wants their allocation of K20,000 to be increased to K50,000 to recruit qualified staff, while four officers are to be employed to fill current vacancies in the parliamentary committee secretariat division.

Parliamentary Services would also recruit at least two officers every year for the next five years to beef up staff strength of the committee secretariat, and arrange for officers from relevant Government agencies to be seconded to them to assist in research and advisory roles.

The 18 committee chairmen also agreed that the current sitting allowance of K50 per day was insufficient, and unanimously agreed that this be raised to be equal with the rate paid to Australia and New Zealand MPs.

They also voted for Parliament to buy 36 vehicles to be given to each committee as a one-off allocation during this term of Parliament.

Speaker Jeffery Nape said he had received the resolution of the meeting, and was studying it.

He said the SRC, which is not in place yet, has to approve it.

Money to fund these additional perks and privileges would have to be found outside Parliamentary Services’ 2008 Budget, and could be catered for in a Supplementary Budget expected in March 2008.

A Government source spoken to said the increases and additional funding being asked will cost between K20 and K30 million.

"It’s a huge amount of money but it’s fair enough if it results in these committees functioning efficiently," the source, who is aware of the chairmen’s request, said.

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