PM should come clean on multi-billion kina APEC spending


“Prime Minister Peter O’Neill must come clean on total APEC spending. It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to keep hiding the vast amount spent on the meeting,” Sir Mekere Morauta, Member for Moresby North-West, said today. “This money belongs to the people, not Peter O’Neill.

“Public money is not his to do with as he pleases, wasting it on luxury cars and private parties for his cronies. People have a right to know how their money is spent, and that right is backed by the law.”
According to the Public Finances (Management) Act, Section 47K, the APEC Authority must be audited by the Auditor-General, Sir Mekere said. But there is no record of any audit.

The report of the Auditor-General on the APEC Authority must be tabled in Parliament. This has not happened. Mr O’Neill has been promising for ages to table the APEC budget and expenditure report in Parliament but has never done so.

“These latest irregularities are in addition to likely breaches of the Constitution, the PFMA and other laws I have previously outlined in relation to the APEC vehicle procurement,” Sir Mekere said. “The smell of corruption grows by the day, and only full inquiries by the Ombudsman Commission and the Fraud Squad can ascertain the truth.

“We know why there is all this secrecy – it is a favorite tactic of Mr O’Neill to hide his activities from proper scrutiny.
“So, Mr Prime Minister, what exactly are you hiding this time? Why are you, the APEC Minister, Mr Justin Tkatchenko, and the APEC Authority CEO, Mr Christopher Hawkins, apparently so willing to break the accountability and transparency laws related to APEC?”

The answer may be that APEC spending has far exceeded the figure of K3 billion given by Treasury to the IMF. The Prime Minister claims that it is far less, but the only way he can convince the public of that is for him to provide the Parliament and the people with all the APEC expenditure details this sitting.

Even the officially acknowledged spending is well over K1 billion: Budget allocations of K650 million (K100m 2014-16, K250m 2017, and K300m 2018), plus APEC House K120 million, Paga Ring Road K50 million, Jackson’s Airport K240 million, 20 percent shareholding in the Star Mountains Plaza project K300 million.

These figures for APEC House, Paga Ring Road and the airport were announced well before the works were completed. I wonder what the final costs were?
On top of that is the procurement of 817 vehicles for APEC, reliably estimated by the PNGi network at K159 million. These include K33 million worth of luxury Bentleys and Maseratis, and top-of-the-range four-wheel-drives and high-spec sedans.

But the Prime Minister is hiding more from the public.
Three cruise liners are being brought to Port Moresby to provide luxury accommodation for APEC participants and others. What is the cost of that and who is paying? What is the Government contribution?

The Prime Minister also has a duty to reveal the cost to the Government – through cash contributions or borrowings – of the upgrade of Port Moresby roads by the Chinese.
The K55 million Government funding through NCDC of the Ela Beach Redevelopment is public knowledge, but what the Prime Minister should also reveal is the amount being drawn down from a BSP loan to NCDC of K430 million for this and other APEC-related projects.
“But it is not only the immediate cost to the nation that the Prime Minister is hiding,” Sir Mekere said. “There are likely to be very significant recurrent operating and maintenance costs, and these need to be revealed.

“The hidden costs of other APEC donations and contributions such as the K85-million Convention Centre, also refurbished by the Chinese, computer systems (Korea), fire-fighting equipment (Japan), security equipment and training from Australia (K300 million), China, New Zealand (NZ$15 million), the US, Indonesia and Japan; and a new K20-million satellite internet system from Australia should also be revealed.”

“Mr O’Neill has been the most extravagant and self-indulgent Prime Minister in our history,” Sir Mekere said. “He and his cronies are living the high life at the expense of ordinary Papua New Guineans who are suffocating, gasping for clean air. Forty per cent of our people earn less than $1.90 a day. The extravaganza of APEC is a grotesque slap in their face.

“The Prime Minister admitted in a recent Post-Courier article that his Government’s corruption, waste and mismanagement mean there is not enough money to pay for essential services such as health, education, transport, infrastructure and law and order.

“Preventable diseases such as polio, leprosy, TB and malaria are surging, and people are dying - 21 children are now known to have contracted polio. Many schools are closing across the nation. Public servants are not being paid properly and other entitlements such as superannuation payments are being withheld. Essential infrastructure outside Port Moresby is crumbling into the dust, and government systems and processes are failing by the day.

“Transparency and accountability demand that the Prime Minister’s secrets be brought out into the open. Over to you, Mr O’Neill.
“Enough is enough.”

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