PNG LAX ACCOUNTING ‘PROFOUND EMBARRASSMENT

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LAX PNG ACCOUNTING ‘PROFOUND' EMBARRASSMENT Money handed out at will

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 27, 2011) – A [government] report has described the state of Papua New Guinea's public finances as a "profound national embarrassment" that has robbed people of basic services.

The Public Accounts Committee has only recently been able to hand down a report into the 2007 financial year.

Committee chairman Martin Aini told parliament the record keeping was so bad they could not confirm the balance of public accounts.

He said money had been spent in breach of the constitution and other laws, and bureaucrats had given themselves huge and illegal cash advances with many departmental heads untrained and ignorant of their duties.

"Those failures have resulted in a failed system of delivering development to our citizens," he said.

In response, the treasurer Peter O'Neil agreed the committee's findings were embarrassing.

Emeritus fellow of the Australian National University, Dr Ron May, told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program that although the treasurer promised to act on the findings, he was not confident there would be any immediate policy changes.

"We do have alot of mechanisms in the Papua New Guinea system, designed to enforce compliance and to check on people who aren't behaving properly, but the record of following up on prosecutions has been rather weak," he said.

Mr May supported the committee's claims there is poor training in government departments, saying training had been declining for a number of years.

"The University of Papua New Guinea and what used to be the Administrative College, are both now, I think shadows of their former selves," he said.

"There are a lot of good, younger people and good middle level people in a number of departments, who try hard to operate effectively under difficult conditions.

"But nonetheless, there is a rather poor level of enforcement of the regulations that exist."

Mr May said there was demand for reform but usually it pertained of people demanding other people be brought to account.

"I think there's the will in a lot of circles to do this, but we exist in a situation at the moment, where a number of members of parliament, including ministers have been appearing before leadership tribunals themselves," he said.

"These aren't the people who are likely to champion measures to get rid of people who've been offending against the laws."

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