28 Jul 2007

Probe into use of PNG government plane in election horse trading

7:20 am on 28 July 2007

The Papua New Guinea government watchdog is investigating reports a government plane was used to fly winning election candidates to meetings with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's National Alliance Party to woo them into a coalition.

The Ombudsman Commission probe follows media reports that the government's Kumul executive aircraft ferried victorious independent and small party candidates to Sir Michael's hometown of Wewak to clinch their support.

Following the reports, PNG's Ombudsman Commission called on political parties and leaders to avoid using public assets for the interests or benefits of particular parties.

Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno told the National newspaper that the costs and expenses relating to wooing of candidates and the formation of a new government must be met by the political parties and not by the public in any manner.

He says the prime minister can only use the Kumul aircraft for official business.

Mr Geno says whether or not it was used accordingly will be substantiated during the investigation.

He says the Commission will find out who authorised the use of the Kumul and who is paying for it.