28 Nov 2013

PNG district funds disbursal method labelled demeaning to MPs

5:48 pm on 28 November 2013

Papua New Guinea opposition MP Sam Basil has voiced concern at the method of disbursal of District Support Improvement Programme funds that MPs are entitled to.

The government, through parliamentary services, has directed that MPs would have to come to parliament to physically receive cheques for the latest quarterly allocation.

Mr Basil says the payments should be made directly to established district treasuries through electronic transferral but instead MPs are made to stand in line in demeaning fashion.

He told Johnny Blades that the government can with-hold DSIP funds to leverage the support of MPs.

SAM BASIL: Yesterday was the budget session. The budget was passed with majority numbers of members in the government. Today, we call it Plantation Workers Day. It's when the plantation workers line up for pay roll. This is very demeaning because as an elected member of parliament, we are elected to come into parliament to talk about issues, debate about issues, and pass legislation that is good for the country and debate on legislation that is about to be passed that is not good and that is bad. We have to stand up and speak without fear and without favour on issues. Nowadays, it's very difficult for a government to speak against any legislation or any other issues that they may feel will offend the prime minister. So every member of parliament are now held at ransom. They are not performing their duties without fear or favour. They are performing their duties with fear and favour. The SIP cheque is a curse to the Papua New Guinea parliament.

JOHNNY BLADES: Each MP has the right to get this DSIP allocation. Can a government exert leverage over withholding and giving that?

SB: They can play delay tactics. For example, towards the year we only received 1 million kina cleared funds in our districts. Now, the money should be wired, not given to MPs. In the next few months I will run a newspaper paid advertisement to my fellow members of parliament, advising them that the money has been passed, it belongs to the district. Nobody has to touch the cheque. It's supposed to be electronically wired and it has to be divided into four quarters to make sure that there is enough money in the revenue to make sure that we can afford those payments, to make sure we don't bring into conflict other payments or commitments that the government has to roll out. So that money, for example 10 million kina, has to be divided into four quarters. 2.5 million kina has to be released every quarter for every member, regardless of who. So this is the normal process that was supposed to be followed, but unfortunately in PNG parliament it's [not] been happening. It's demeaning the members of parliament.

JB: The government emerges as the provider, I suppose.

SB: The government is treating every member of parliament with contempt and they're making us look like primitives. Back in the colonial days we didn't know how to read and write and we didn't know how money [Indistinct]. We are all answerable to the master that is holding the cheque and making us run at his will.