4 Jun 2013

Concerns in PNG's Oro at missing aid funds

4:23 pm on 4 June 2013

A body set up to help fix damaged infrastructure after the devastating Cyclone Guba hit Papua New Guinea in 2007, is being investigated over questions about how recovery funding was spent.

The Oro Restoration Authority was established in the wake of the cyclone, which killed at least 170 people in Oro Province, and took out bridges, roads, and basic services.

But people from the area say Oro has not seen any restoration work.

Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:

The Governor of Oro Province, Gary Juffa, who came into office in August last year, says he's trying to clean up the mess that was created when the Authority was established.

"GARY JUFFA: The disaster occurred in 2007, then the Oro Restoration Authority was established, and that, in itself, became another disaster. Because, you see, the government at the time decided to appoint a political crony, a political friend, to head that organisation."

The MP for Sohe in Oro Province, Delilah Gore, says when Cyclone Guba hit, infrastructure across the whole of the province was badly damaged. She says the Authority was established by the government, given 20 million kina, and tasked with restoring basic services to the villages that were affected but in her electorate she hasn't seen any evidence of that.

DELILAH GORE: We still do not have bridges, our roads are still bad, some roads are inaccessible by vehicles. Many health centres got closed down because roads are bad, and aid posts got closed down, some schools since the disaster got closed and some schools are not opened yet. People are still not recovered or got any services.

Delilah Gore says she has raised the issue in parliament with the hope that the current government will revive the Authority and make new appointments so they can finally restore services to the province. Governor Juffa says he's already taken steps to investigate what has gone on at the organisation.

GARY JUFFA: The moneys that were put in there there was no proper financial controls, oversight, et cetera. So I've taken stock of that situation, I've looked at the audit reports. So all of this was there when I came along and now I'm trying to clean it up. I've seized vehicles and assets and so forth and I'm conducting a review of the ORA to determine its future and what we should do.

Gary Juffa says if they decide to retain the Authority, they have to recruit quality people to run it, and a stringent process must be put in place to monitor expenditure. He says an audit report has pointed to the misuse of public funds given to the Authority and says if people are found to have committed crimes, they'll be dealt with accordingly.