District payments flow as PNG govt prepares for confidence vote
Papua New Guinea's government has ordered payments of 900 thousand US dollars to each government MP ahead of tomorrow's vote of no-confidence against the prime minister. The funds are to be provided under the District Services Improvement Program, the success of which remains questionable.
Papua New Guinea government MPs have been allocated large payments ahead of tomorrow's vote of no-confidence against the prime minister.
The funds are reportedly to be provided under the District Services Improvement Program, or DSIP.
Johnny Blades reports that resources have been mobilised this week as Peter O'Neill fights to survive as prime minister.
PNG Treasury sources indicate the government has ordered payments of around US$900,000 to each government MP at the so-called 'Alotau retreat'. At least 60 of PNG's 111 MPs were flown to Alotau this week by Peter O'Neill for coalition discussions ahead of the big vote. Writing on the PNG Attitude website, the journalist Peter Kinjap reported a source, who wished to remain anonymous, saying the Finance Department had been instructed to make payments ahead of the vote. Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan told the national broadcaster NBC that the instrument to facilitate payments had been signed and funds were expected to be released on Friday. The deputy opposition leader Sam Basil says the funds should normally be paid to district treasurers, not directly to MPs.
SAM BASIL: From our conversation between the MPs in Alotau and us, MPs are saying that he (O'Neill) is blaming the opposition for trying to block the payments. But in actual fact, opposition never asked for the block of payments, opposition never ran to the courts to get any court orders to block the payments. The prime minister knows that there is no money in the national Treasury account. Therefore he's lying to the members, blaming the opposition while holding the cheques back.
All of PNG's MPs are entitled to the same amount of district funding, but opposition MPs have often struggled to get theirs. And so far this year general delivery of the funds has been slow coming amid PNG's public finance woes. The sudden timing of the latest payment has not surprised PNG's political scene. However the Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said the district funds system had transformed PNG in the past few years, thanks to Peter O'Neill, and he's backing the prime minister to stay through until next year's elections.
JUSTIN TKATCHENKO: The elections will be the big test to see whether this DSIP worked or not because voters will say yes or no to their members if they did the right thing with their DSIP funds and developed the health sectors, education, infrastructure as required with the funds that they were given. So I would say 90 percent of all members did their job, and did it well. And the electorate will reward them or crucify them because of it.
But the Governor of Oro province Gary Juffa says that in most instances, the district funds have not been spent effectively or efficiently.
GARY JUFFA: They've been dished out in inflated contracts to dubious companies or they're either incomplete projects all over the country, half-done or not even done; payments have been made, companies that don't have the experience or wherewithal have been given contracts. So I think Justin Tkatchenko is promoting a lie in this instance. If we did a complete audit of all those projects, I'm convinced that we would find that a greater number of them are incomplete or shoddy or improperly delivered.
The Opposition Leader, Don Polye had accused the Prime Minister of using taxpayer funds to fly the Government to Alotau. However Peter O'Neill insists his People's National Congress party funded the trip. His fate as prime minister rests on which way his MPs will vote when they return to Port Moresby for Friday's vote.
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