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PM refutes Madang MP’s claims of funds misuse

By Estella Cheung PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 30, 2011) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called on Madang Regional MP Sir Arnold Amet to refrain from making misleading statements.

Mr. O’Neill made this remark in response to the front page story of The National newspaper yesterday, titled "PGK500 million [US$227 million] in state funds misused."

Sir Arnold and some other Opposition MPs were reported to have said in a media conference that the Treasurer had used his powers to approve 210 project funds totaling almost PGK500 million; which they claim was a misappropriation of public funds.

[PIR editor’s note: Former Planning and Monitoring minister Paul Tiensten joins the ranks of officials calling into question the alleged misuse of the government funds, calling for a report based around allegations of misspent funds during the previous government, in which he held a ministerial seat.]

"I want to state that that is not true; that is a false statement and that is unbecoming of a person who has once occupied the position of chief justice of this country," O’Neill told media outside the mining seminar at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby.

O’Neill was at the Gateway Hotel to give his opening address at the four-day mining and petroleum seminar, when he met with several media personal to respond to the newspaper report.

"Many of these funds are for providing services to our people. Most of those funds as I understand it; are being spent on health, schools and roads in the country," O’Neill said.

"I do not want to apologize to anyone if I am spending money on behalf of government for these services in our country. The funds he is talking about are firstly, coming out of the 2011 Budget; those appropriations have been done already. Second is the supplementary budget of 2011; they are specific funds allocated for these sectors; health, education and infrastructure. And the third one is funding that is coming out of trust accounts; monies that are held in trust accounts for various projects throughout the country. So funds are not being blown out of proportion as claimed by the member," O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the funds received by certain government members and ministers were lawful and complied with the Public Finances Management Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

"The PGK16 million [US$7 million] I received for my electorate for infrastructural development was counterpart funding from the national government. This funding was approved by the Department of Works and the Department of Treasury and Finance," he said.

The Prime Minister said despite previous mismanagement of public funds by former regimes, this government was committed to serving the people’s best interest.

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