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PNG’S O’NEILL: SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME ‘Serious capacity and delivery problems’

By Simon Eroro PNG PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 12, 2011) - Papua New Guinea (PNG) has no problem with money, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said.

In an address to PNG investors in Brisbane, Australia on Friday, Mr. O’Neill said PNG has enough money but its capacity to spend this money effectively is the real problem.

"We have serious public sector capacity and delivering problems. Devolving delivery to local communities, and using the resources of our churches and NGOs, is helping to improve service delivery," Mr. O’Neill told the conference, attended by many investors in the mining and hydrocarbon sectors in PNG.

"But there is a long way to go. Time is not on our side. The national elections are less than a year away, but we will use every day between now and then to try and address some of these great challenges," he added.

Mr. O’Neill said his government faces enormous challenges in improving basic services delivery and in rebuilding and expanding vital national infrastructure such as roads, ports and electricity. He said the current system was simply not working and it had not been working for years.

"There are challenges and opportunities we face as a government and one of my first challenges as Prime Minister was to address corruption and the abuse of public money," Mr. O’Neill said. He said: "In the short term, we have appointed investigators to quickly investigate suspicious financial transactions that occurred outside the proper processes during the final months of the last government. However, in the medium term, we will do what should have been done years ago and that is to establish a well resourced Independent Commission Against Corruption. That was the first commitments made by my government," Mr. O’Neill said.

He said the best way to wage war against corruption was to significantly increase the prospects of detection and successful prosecution and that was what the new Commission would be charged with doing.

Mr. O’Neill said his government had moved swiftly to complete a number of unfinished legislative businesses of Parliament and were functioning assertively and decisively to cleanse the system of corrupt elements.

He said the Government had already established an investigation team to probe various financial abuses including the disappearance of millions of kina of the country’s development budget for 2011 in the first quarter of this year.

Mr. O’Neill also took the opportunity to inform the investors and development partners that the Somare led government was changed because it needed to be changed.

"The former government lost focus on assertive and decisive political and government leadership. Worse, it lost focus on the nation’s budgeted national development and public investment programs," Mr. O’Neill said.

Mr. O’Neill said for seven months, since the beginning of the year, but more so in the five months that his predecessor had left the leadership of the nation to an acting Prime Minister, uncertainty reigned.

"Chaos was not far-away. Political instability crept in. Corruption and misappropriation of hundreds of millions of kina for budgeted national development and public investment programs became the order of the day," Mr. O’Neill said.

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