Kavo conviction in PNG seen as tip of iceberg
The conviction last week of a Papua New Guinea MP, Governor of Gulf Province, Havila Kavo, for misuse of public funds may point to a much bigger problem with corruption.
The conviction last week of a Papua New Guinea MP for misuse of public funds may point to a much bigger problem with corruption.
The Governor of Gulf Province, Havila Kavo, was found guilty of misusing about US$50,000 from a trust account belonging to the people of Kikori district for infrastructure.
Johnny Blades has more.
Havila Kavo's conviction comes five months after another MP, Pomio's Paul Tiensten, was given a nine-year jail term for the misuse of US$4m in public funds.
The deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika said Kavo was dishonest and spent the funds for personal use.
The chairman of Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stephens, says such misuse is not uncommon.
"When you look at the amount involved and when you listen to stories of much larger amounts that still have to be accounted for involving other leaders, one is hoping that this is a sign that the legal system is working and the judicial system is working, that we should be able to look forward to many more people facing their day in court."
The deputy opposition leader Sam Basil has welcomed the conviction.
"I feel sorry for him but this should also send a clear message to all the members of parliament that we must be very careful when we are handling public funds. Now this (amount), more than a hundred thousand kina, that Havila Kavo was convicted of, I believe it's the tip of an iceberg. There are hundreds of millions, even into billions that needs to be checked out. And I believe there are more members of parliament that need to go to jail."
In recent years huge sums of public money have been directed to provinces such as Gulf, Hela and Southern Highlands from the national budget in anticipation for development projects around the major LNG gas project which was launched this year.
"Most of those funds are being handled by members of parliament, their JDP (Joint District Planning committee) and their provincial PEC (Provincial Executive Council) and also individual members of parliament. We will see a lot of misuse if the authorities such as the Ombudsman Commission, the Auditor General's office and other auditing agencies of the national government, the provincial governments and the districts, if they don't do their job, we will see a lot of this happening."
The Institute of National Affairs' Paul Barker says the government, in its annual budget documents, is making commitments to improve the accountability mechanisms for public trust funds.
"But they are hard things to monitor and to account for, and unfortunately the bodies like the Auditor General are way behind and limited in their capacity to be overseeing these sorts of funds, let alone the government's own internal oversight mechanisms."
Paul Barker says the government will come under increasing pressure to ensure improved management of trust funds.
This is especially the case with the Sovereign Wealth Fund it is reportedly working towards creating in order to protect proceeds of the LNG project.
Havila Kavo is to be sentenced next month.
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