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$61 million not spent and must be returned

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 29, 2009) – The European Union (EU) says it will take back nearly K170 million [US$61 million] allocated to Papua New Guinea’s education sector after the Government failed to use the money, Radio Australia has reported.

The funding was to be used for teacher training and to buy textbooks and library books for PNG schools.

The money was committed in September 2006 on the proviso the PNG Government would come up with a detailed plan on how it would spend the money.

But, almost three years later, there is still no plan and now the EU’s ambassador to PNG, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, said the EU wanted the money back.

"If the funds are not used within the period foreseen for the implementation of the project, they go back to the general budget of the European Commission," he said.

The National Government said it was in talks with the EU to stop the funds from being withheld.

This news comes as a double blow to the education sector, with revelations by the Ombudsman Commission that K37 million [US$13.3 million] of the K230 million [US$82.4 million] might have been misused.

The funds have been frozen while the commission investigates the use of those funds.

Schools throughout PNG are in dire need of funds to upgrade existing facilities like classrooms and teachers’ houses.

According to submissions received by the Education Department, the Government needs about K1 billion to address the needs of all the schools in the country.

The National:

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