PNG AUDITOR: $318 MILLION STOLEN YEARLY

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More than 60 public officials involved

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 14, 2008) – A Revelation in Parliament shows PGK850 million (US$318.5 million) in development funds is being stolen every year by people within Papua New Guinea’s

national and provincial administrations before the money reaches the targeted population and projects.

People in authority in public offices are misusing public money earmarked for developments but to date none of those involved have been caught and prosecuted.

This was revealed in the Auditor-General’s report highlighted by Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala in Parliament yesterday while asking the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Allan Marat how this would be addressed.

Mr. Kikala, who is also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said the funds were lost before they reached the targeted population.

"People in public offices where the money passes through are responsible for the misuse of these huge amounts of money which should be put into better use," Mr. Kikala said.

He said more than 60 public office holders, allegedly involved in stealing public funds, were referred to the office of the Attorney General and the Ombudsman Commission to be prosecuted but nothing happened.

"Section Five of the Audit Act 1989, the office of the Auditor General is vested with the power to prosecute any person that commits an offence of misappropriation of public monies," Mr. Kikala said.

However, the Auditor General has advised the Public Accounts Committee his office had been advised by the office of the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Attorney General the section permitting him to prosecute was invalid and of no effect.

"This has resulted in the Auditor General being incapacitated and weakened and seriously has no teeth to bite" Mr. Kikala said.

He asked Justice Minister Dr Marat to immediately to tell his department to make amendments or enactments that will enable the Auditor General to prosecute.

Dr Marat agreed with Mr. Kikala on the misappropriations and said measures were taken to amend the powers of the Attorney General.

He said the office of the Attorney General was vested with powers that should be effectively used to investigate and prosecute those involved.

Dr Marat added moves were being made by his department to amend some of these laws.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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