PNG DEFENCE FORCE DEBT REDUCES SECURITY PREPAREDNESS

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Civilian control of budget blamed for deficiencies

By Peter Korugl

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 13, 2012) – The PNG Defence Force is riddled in debts running into millions of kina that it was not in a position to come to the aid of the country when needed, it has been revealed.

An Independent Investigation Committee (IIC) has found that money allocated for the army to carry out its constitutional and development duties, including the building of its capability for its preparedness for national and international security has been compromised.

In its report, the IIC highlighted that the control of the army was not in the hands of the Commander and his senior officers but in the hands of civilians and the Defence Secretary as they control the money.

"Strategic and operational management of the Defence Force is not in the hands of the Commander and his senior management team because they are not able to control their finances to effect their strategic and management decisions.

"The IIC questions how the Defence Force can continue to function like that when the commander and operational units continue to beg for funds from a secretary and his staff that remain aloof to the priorities and needs of the Defence Force.

"How can the Defence Force promptly respond when the Government and the country needs it under the present circumstance?" the IIC questioned.

The IIC reported that all the PNGDF funds have been spent and diverted not on Defence Force purposes but for civilian staff purposes.

In its investigation, the IIC said it found that the PNGDF two operating accounts – the Paymaster’s Impress Account and the Drawing account – were grossly abused.

The IIC found that the civilian staff drew money under the sick leave encashment scheme totalling K683,903.40 in 1990 alone while in the four year period between 2007 and 2010, an amount of K2,549,570 was paid to 23 of the Department of Defence staff.

"None of these recipients were terminally ill, nonetheless they all got paid. No army personal benefited, only civilian staff. Money amounts were paid in the peaking order; those in the top got more while those at the bottom got less.

"What is more? Those who received it, approved it or influenced it," the IIC said in its report.

The IIC said the root problem was structural and as long as the current structure persist, the army will be at the whim and control of a civilian Chief Accounting Officer and where the civilian secretary and his senior civilian staff remain ignorant and inattentive to the priorities and constitutional duties of the army, the Defence Force will continue to face the problem it is facing.

The IIC said the structure was inconsistent to the best practice of Defence Force re-organisation and reform around the world.

The IIC recommended that the control of the PNGDF funds should be placed in the hands of the commander and a full investigation should be conducted into the payments. The IIC said to date the PNGDF owed K43,354,487.79 to Nationwide Catering Services, accumulated over four years and K12,872,969.02 for outstanding claims as of December 2010.

The IIC was appointed by the Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc on advice from the Government and was chaired by Secretary for Personal Management Department, John Kali, and the members were former acting judge Nemo Yalo, Dr Lawrence Sause, John Palimi and Mahendran Ketheeswaranathan.

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