Need for better management of PNG trust funds
PNG's government faces a growing need to improve the management of trust funds after the conviction of another MP for misuse of public money.
The Governor of Gulf Province, Havila Kavo, has been found guilty of misusing about 50,000 US dollars from a trust account belonging to the people of Kikori district for infrastructure.
He is to be sentenced next month.
In April, the Pomio MP, Paul Tiensten, was given a nine-year jail term for the misuse of four million US dollars.
Paul Barker of PNG's Institute of National Affairs told Johnny Blades the government needs to improve the management of trust funds.
PAUL BARKER: Because there is a concern in Papua New Guinea about credibility, of governance. There's a lot of public awareness of the increased revenue that's expected over the next years as the LNG (Gas project) sales proceed and as debts are progressively paid off. And there's large concern within the public that the benefits are not really being passed on through to the public, so they're hearing about these expected gains and they're not really seeing that much on the ground that's benefitting them so there is a concern also that susbstantial funding is going through to the districts - there's the ten million kina allocation per district per year - plus other grants going through to the districts, and again other concerns of a very variable accountability over that expenditure at the district level. And there's a lot of finger pointing by the local members towards the public servants and vice versa, but the government has to be seen to be delivering on the resource benefits and their commitments to the district. If there is extensive abuse that is occurring amongst some of the leaders and officials, well clearly at the end of the day, the finger gets pointed at the government of the day.
JOHNNY BLADES: Now do you expect that Havila Kavo will be given a jail sentence?
PB: It wouldn't be proper for me to say but certainly the judiciary will be, I imagine, eager to demonstrate that abuses of public office cannot be watered under the bridge. There may be some sympathy with him that it's felt that he has entitlements but there will be little sympathy about abusing trust funds. As I say, after the case of Paul Tiensten, there was some level of debate that although the amount he was involved in was considerably greater, there were suggestions that he wasn't benefitting personally but whether that's the case or not is another matter. But there's a lot of feeling that well, look, why is he the one person getting the punishment when there appears to be a lot of other people who have been misusing office as well. But clearly, the courts deal with cases that come before them and that was one of the cases that came out of the (investigative) operation (Taskforce) Sweep. They handle what's before them and they're not going to really be tolerant of abuse and are probably eager to set a clear demonstration that abuse cannot be tolerated by the courts and the justice system of PNG.
JB: Will he lose his (parliamentary) seat?
PB: Well, if you get a system of... I think it's nine months, then you lose office. But if it's for a shorter period, then you can actually retain your seat.
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