PNG’S MILLIONS DISAPPEARING INTO CORRUPT POCKETS

Editorial

PNG’S MILLIONS DISAPPEARING INTO CORRUPT POCKETS

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 17, 2011) – Acting Deputy Police Commissioner operations, Fred Yakasa again gave us a stark reminder of corruption in Papua New Guinea (PNG) when he said on Tuesday that a mammoth 50 percent of its budget annually is lost to fraud.

This works out to a whopping 4 billion- kina [US$1.5 billion] a year, which Yakasa bluntly said had gone into the hands of corrupt public servants and senior bureaucrats, many of whom he alleges have invested these gains overseas.

On top of that, PNG fails to collect more than half of the taxation revenue that is due to it.

Internal Revenue Commission has admitted that hundreds of millions have been lost through tax evasion, false declarations and companies hiding their books from authorities.

Hundreds of millions are lost annually through non-compliance by companies in submitting their tax returns while Internal Revenue Commission, because of capacity constraints limits its checks to major corporate entities operating in the country.

Yakasa’s words should be taken note of by every citizen of PNG if we want to see our country develop.

We can only hope that the recent meetings in Crowne Plaza between the acting Prime Minister Sam Abal and senior public servants from Waigani and the provinces will stop this daylight robbery of public funds.

Apart from fraud, there is an element of ineptness among public servants, which they cover up with meetings, workshops, and meaningless junkets, exploiting their travelling allowance without achieving any results to better the lives of our people.

The most critical issue the Somare government must address is the performance of the public service, and especially that of the heads of government departments and agencies.

The minister and secretary of National Planning and Monitoring, the first assistant secretaries as well as all heads of associated agencies, and the minister and secretary for Finance and their line managers have to explain the 4 billion- kina [US1.5 billion] fraud allegations.

Are the allegations true or false? We must know and they are the only persons who can answer these questions.

Each one of them is affected by and stands accused by the words of Yakasa: "Papua New Guinea has the wealth to provide each and every one of us with first world quality of life. Where does the money go? It disappears into the pockets of corrupt public servants; it disappears into real estate properties in Australia and Vanuatu, into bank accounts in Singapore and it disappears in the form of minerals and timber in foreign ships that foreign businesses have bribed our politicians to avoid paying for."

If the accusations are false then the onus is on the relevant senior public servants and their political leaders to come out and defend the good names of their various offices.

The nation’s top planners admitted last December that there was a highly-organized syndicate operating with the bureaucracy who preys on recipients of government checks.

They included public servants, bank workers and police personnel who may have milked the state of millions of kina over the years.

These people cannot be operating in isolation. Somebody must know of somebody involved in this. Why is nobody speaking out?

Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) recently expressed disgust at the collapse of the government’s financial management systems as Public Account Committee (PAC) reports clearly showed a complete lack of accountability within the public service.

TIPNG says that it was very sad to learn from that from the 1,000 enquiries carried out by the PAC into the operations of various government agencies, hospital boards, and trust accounts most have not complied with lawful requirements.

The PAC has sounded the alarm bells and the national executive council must address this situation as the highest priority.

We understand the various Public Account Committee reports have been sitting with the National Executive Council (NEC) gathering dust, if this is true then this is indeed an indictment on the members of the NEC.

It is totally unacceptable that government, and particularly the NEC, turns a blind eye to reports submitted by the PAC.

From the point of view of the people, when government does not bother to respond to theft and malpractice, it becomes an accomplice of those who are stealing and misusing the people’s resources.

This state of affairs suggests that the government has no respect for the people it is sworn to serve, and is certainly not serious about ensuring that proper procedures and regulations, particularly the Financial Management Act, are adhered to by all agencies in a transparent manner.

Lack of action by the government continues to feed and encourage more unlawful practices, translating into non-delivery of goods and services for the ordinary people.

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