Call In PNG For Strict Controls On Discretionary Funds

Opposition: current system privileges governing party, reform through making funds constitutional grant

By Jeffrey Elapa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 28, 2016) – The service improvement program funds should be a constitutional grant as a way to stop abuse by parliamentarians, Bulolo MP Sam Basil has proposed.

Mr Basil said that the funds, totalling more than K800 million [US$247,806,000] annually, are not all expended on development priorities in the district as intended for but are used as discretionary funds that are open to abuse and misuse.

Under the funds current setup the Government decides when and who gets their share of the funds, a process which the Opposition says they are victims of. The services improvement program funds includes the Provincial Service Improvement Program, District Service Improvement Program and Local Level Government Service Improvement Program funds, an appropriation initiative of the Peter O’Neill-led Government to target development in the districts, provinces and local level governments.

Mr Basil said yesterday that when "constitutionalised" the funds will be strictly development and could not be politicised by the Government. By law all districts will receive their funds regardless of which side of the House they sit.

He said when funds are appropriated it is guided by Appropriation Act and are part of the Budget to be disbursed to all districts.

"I want the Service Improvement Program funds of K10 million [US$3,098,000] each to Members to be constitutionalised by law so that it is compulsory to be acquitted like the district and provincial support grants.

He said most of the SIP funds are presumably spent on hire cars and ground-breaking ceremonies and events, funds purportedly drawn out from the administrative component of 10 per cent.

Mr Basil presented his 2015 District Support Grants (DSG) acquittal reports yesterday to the Department of Implementation and Rural Development in Port Moresby while calling on the National Government to legislate so that the funds become constitutional grants under the Organic Law on the Provincial and Local Level Government.

"When SIP funds are constitutionalised, we all leaders have a mandate to furnish acquittal reports annually to DIRD or other agencies for transparency and accountability purposes," he said.

He said only K500,000 [US$155,000] or K1 million [US$310,000] should be used as discretionary funds while K9.5 million [US$2,943,000] should be non-discretionary funds and are subject to be audited and MPs will be responsible for their actions.

Finance Minister James Marape said yesterday the Government was not playing politics but had disbursed the funds (K2 million) [US$620,000] equally to all the 89 districts and the 22 provinces, including Bulolo.

PNG Post-Courier
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