Loop PNG Charles Yapumi May 26, 2017 at 12.12 pm
Loop PNG Charles Yapumi May 26, 2017 at 12.12 pm
Ombudsman Commission freezes all DSIP accounts to prevent funds being used in bribery or inducements during the election period as nominations officially open
BY GORETHY KENNETH
LEADERSHIP watchdog Ombudsman Commission has issued directions to stop the release of all development funds in provinces and districts as writs for the National Election are issued.
It takes effect immediately to prevent bribery and inducements during the election period up to the end of September, Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick and Ombudsman Richard Pagen said yesterday.
It will be lifted when the new government is formed, according to the Ombudsman Commission.
The announcement comes hours after Governor-General Bob Dadae signed instruments at Government House to declare nominations open for the 2017 National Election.
It is directed at provincial governors, members of Open electorates and state institutions and persons who handle development funds for districts and provinces.
The Bank of PNG Governor and all heads of commercial banks have also been notified.
Mr Dick and Mr Pagen warned that persons who do not comply with this direction will be guilty of misconduct in office and be liable to prosecution before a leadership tribunal.
“The Ombudsman Commission was also mindful of election-related laws under the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections, especially section 208 relating to bribery and inducements during the campaign period,” Mr Dick said.
The Ombudsman Commission has formed a working committee comprising Department of Rural Development and Implementation and the Department of Finance that will work with it to ensure that requests are cleared after due compliance with the applicable laws, guidelines and financial instructions.
Mr Dick said the ongoing projects would continue and that the remaining district and provincial services improvement programs funds, if released, should be parked in the right trust account and not elsewhere but would be strictly monitored.
“It has been an ongoing public concern that the period up to and inclusive of the national election to the parliament serious concerns arise regarding the release; disbursement, transfer and receipt of public money purporting to be in the form of electoral (services improvement program) and constitutional grants (district and provincial support grants) funds and various development funds under Provincial Support Grants and District Support Grants,” he said.
“The Ombudsman Commission is concerned that the distribution of substantial public funds to the district treasuries and the provincial treasuries in such a time when the 2017 national election is commencing, there is insufficient time for the funds to be properly applied to development purposes as intended and therefore, these substantial public funds may be misapplied or misused contrary to law and the relevant guidelines.
“Under the directions, the concerned funds will not be released unless clearance has been sought from the Ombudsman Commission for the release, disbursement, transfer and/or receipt or the payment of such public monies, cheques or warrants,” he said.
The Ombudsman is concerned that some districts may have transferred funds from development accounts to operating accounts to avoid this direction, Mr Dick said, adding that this was contrary to the operating laws and guidelines, and those provinces and/or districts in this situation should immediately transfer funds back to the development accounts.
“Whatever clearance the Ombudsman Commission gives for the use of the funds to a sitting member of parliament, should in no way be construed as indemnifying him or her from observing election laws and any precedent National or Supreme Court Decisions,” he said.
BY LYNETTE KIL
FINANCE Minister James Marape is adamant that the first quarter payment of K75 million from the Tuition Fee Free fund will be paid directly to schools account by the end of this week.
He gave the undertaking yesterday following reports that Government and agency schools had not received the first quarter payments as schools nationwide started on Monday.
“The TFF fund is being worked on and by the end of this week, first batch of K75 million would be dispatched to all school accounts. “Mr. Marape said.
Education Secretary Uke Kombra early this week said the Finance Department had not released the TFF funds.
“Treasury will release the TFF funds soon in two allotments, and through scheduled phases, to the Bank of PNG where the funds will further be disbursed to commercial banks where respective schools maintain their accounts,” Dr Kombra said.
He said TFF has been “faithfully funded” in the past four years and was captured in the 2017 Budget priorities with the allocation of K602 million.
“The tuition free fee covers the annual unit-cost of the total cost operations of a school in a year,” Dr Kombra said.
He added that the operation cost is done by the education board based on an average unit cost.
“In other words, the education board sets fee limits of respective schools for the distribution of TFF funds.
Dr Kombra has urged parents to submit the names of the schools who are charging fees to parents for inspectors to investigate the school.
“We have made it clear in the media that schools should not be charging fees to parents.”
The non-timely release of the International Monetary Fund Article IV Report is almost unprecedented around the world and certainly in the Asia/Pacific to withhold from public viewing.
It also raises a lot of concern and suggests that the IMF has provided figures and commentary which express concern over the state of the economy and presumably over management aspects affecting the balance of payment says an economist.
Director of the Institute of National Affairs (INA) Paul Barker was responding to the explanation by Bank of PNG Governor Loi Bakani and the continued delay of the release of the report.
This is despite the assurance by the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last week at the PNG Media Council’s inaugural luncheon that the report would be released by relevant authorities.
“Last week the PM said he had no issues with the report and that he would ask the central bank to endorse its release.
The bank has now produced this unheralded condemnation of aspects of the Article IV Report and stated that it will consider authorising its release, but only basically after it (IMF) uses figures that concur with those of the Central Bank.
“It’s almost unprecedented around the world and certainly in the Asia/Pacific region to seek to withhold the IMF report from public viewing and therefore also the market.
“It would be better to have the report released and reduce negative speculation. “BPNG has highlighted the areas of its key concerns so has in effect revealed some of the content of the IMF report.
“It is odd that some of the issues apparently raised were also contained in the 2015 Report which was released,” Mr Barker said.
The economist says the issues that may have been raised thus resulting in the non-release, notably may be the use of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and debt figures, while also the management of the exchange rate and foreign exchange.
Nonetheless he said the private sector is well aware of the issues and particularly the impact. “They realise the kina value was raised by some 17 per cent in 2013 with a negative impact on agricultural producers and the tourism sector.
All busineses are aware also aware of the impact of the foreign exchange squeeze on their operations. “Imports were reduced dramatically by the restrain on import figures as the measure of months of foreign exchange reserve held,” he said.
The economists argues figures had been revised adding that if they had been then the bank and the National Statistics office may need to explain and defend the basis of the new data provided, not just to IMF but the wider community.
Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele said yesterday that he would be releasing a statement explaining the issues on the IMF report.