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Dig deep and wide - Basil

Bulolo MP and Deputy Leader of Opposition Honourable Sam Basil today commended the enforcer of the Leadership Code - the Ombudsman Commission – for its proactive response on his call for public accounting on funding of elections.

“I am pleased that that Acting Chief Ombudsman John Nero has taken my public call on parliamentary leaders and political party executives to account for their election campaign funding seriously,” Mr Basil said, following an EMTV news item featuring Mr Nero’s public comments on Saturday evening.

The head of PNG’s watch dog said on TV that the Ombudsman Commission will investigate the use of District Services Improvement Program funds by both ousted and returned MPs. Open MPs are chairmen of their joint district planning and budget priorities committees which determine priorities for disbursement.

It is estimated that the 89 Open MPs had access to some K27 million each from 2007-2012 in DSIP funds. That equates to an expenditure of at least K2.4 billion for the five years of the eighth Parliament. Equitably divided annually, that’s K480 million. 

“The figure of K500 million estimated by the un-named international observer is a very serious issue. As I said previously, we in Papua New Guinea Party have made no secret of what was spent – and we can honestly and transparently point to the source(s) of these funds,” said Mr Basil.

“But the question of who spent the K470 million, where the source of these funds are, and who was responsible in making them available strikes at the heart of integrity of returned Members of Parliament.”

The vibrant Bulolo MP said that the public needs to know where the monies came from.

“Did they originate from the public purse? How were they authorised? And by whom? Were Public Finance (Management) Act procedures followed in their disbursement, transfer or re-allocation – and in accessing these public funds?

“And if the funds were foreign, have these been made known to the Registrar of Political Parties? What were the purposes these foreign funds were given to political parties and/or candidates who might now be Members of Parliament?

“No returned MP – including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Treasurer Don Polye, Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Public Service Minister Sir Puka Temu – and even the provincial governors - can hold their heads high until an investigation dispels these dark clouds hovering around.

“Naturally those of us who were in the O’Neill-Namah Government must be the first to face the music. But the investigation by the Ombudsman Commission must extend to use of other State Assets like Departmental vehicles, aircrafts and sea vessels.

“I am also calling on the Ombudsman Commission to make public their own investigations into the NPF Inquiry, the Cayman Islands deal, the Sandline issue, who gave the order for the assassination of the late Theodore Miriung, and the multiple-breaking of PNG domestic laws, invasion of Solomon Islands airspace and sovereignty, and breaches of other international aviation laws in the apparent State aided clandestine escape of former Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti.

“And what is going to happen to the K800 million debt exposed by former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta in the abuse of Independent Public Business Enterprises to borrow to fund PNG’s stake in the multi-billion ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG Project?

Mr Basil said that these and many more costly controversies involving the public purse affect leadership integrity and can be – if not already – the cause of public distrust in political leadership.

“Leading PNG statesmen in the current O’Neill Government – and newer MPs – cannot be trusted by the public unless all these matters are aired and resolved publicly by the relevant Government authorities,” the Bulolo MP said.

“The Ombudsman Commission as lead agency in enforcing the Leadership Code must mobilise other sister agencies to intensely and expeditiously investigate these matters.

“If Mr Nero and his colleagues in other law enforcement agencies do this, the people’s negative perceptions and attitudes will settle and confidence can be restored in political leaders,” concluded Mr Basil.