DAL ‘ADMIN’ SUCKS K7.6 MILLION OF PRICE SUPPORT FUNDS
by CYRIL GARE
Port Moresby, Only 250,000 public servants (plus or minus) out of 8 million Papua New Guineans eat up 30 percent of our national-common wealth or K5.2 billion of the national budget every year through their pay packets.
That’s a huge burden on the shoulder of a struggling developing nation where all socioeconomic indicators on the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) scale speak low of PNG, even lower among the regional neighbors - Pacific Island Nations (PIN). This excludes the costs of public servants’ traveling allowances, office rentals, utilities, vehicle hire, and such other costs that leech on public funding.
As if that’s not enough, departments and state agencies have developed a systemic tendency to ask for more and loot from the people’s share each time the pie is available. A case in point: - The Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) is handling of 2022 K15 million price support/freight subsidy program funds.
Originally, K20 million was allocated but reduced to K15 million during the September supplementary budget. Batch 1 funding - K6.5 million was released. Of these monies, nothing was given to the eight (8) commodity boards to implement price support and freight subsidy at the farmer level.
Instead, K4,842,144 or 74.5 percent were burnt up at the DAL headquarter (HQ) alone on these activities: i) DAL ICT capacity building, ii) development of the corporate plan and iii) development of a national price intervention and freight subsidy policy. Balance left unused – K1,657,851.
Meaning the Marape Government had spent K50 million on price support and freight subsidy last year and again K15 million this year on a program that does not have a policy backup in place hence, illegal under PFMA requirements and law. So part of this funding was allocated to developing a “national price intervention and freight subsidy policy”.
Also, what came to light was that DAL bought three Ford Everest vehicles using this money. One is currently being used by a senior ministerial staffer of a ministry other than Agriculture. Batch 2 funding – K8.5 million. On 10th November 2022 DAL wrote to the Agriculture Minister, Hon. Aiye Tambua advising him on how it intends to expend the second batch of K8.5 million: CIC K1.5 mill, Cocoa Board K1 mill, OPIC K1.5 mill, Livestock K1.5 mill, FPDA K300,000, Rubber Board K300,000, Spice Board K300,000 and DAL itself again wants a bigger slice of the pie - K2,757,851 or 32.45 percent of K8.5 mill.
Justifications by DAL:
It wanted K2,757,851 “for the price improvement interventions and freight support for the sector”, adding that “use of funds are in compliant to PFMA of which 70 percent of the fund is transferred to the commodity boards and 30 percent retained in DAL for administration and support to the sector”.Wrong:
i) Under PFMA only 10 per is allocated for administration,
ii) price support and freight subsidy is clearly the job of commodity boards who are there with farmers down there and not the job of DAL which is policy, regulation, and technical support. It must never control price support and subsidy monies,
iii) OPIC makes around K2 billion a year in export revenue, the leading agriculture earner so whygive K1.5 million?, iv) Livestock is operated under Livestock Development Corporation (LDC). It is a private company. Last year LDC received K16 million in funding without an acquittal as yet. Why K1.5 million again in this second batch of funding?
The commodity board that needs help would be CIC as it is currently fighting Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) with assistance from NAQIA funding the joint intervention and containment exercises on the ground in Jiwaka. Despite this, CBB has now spread to Simbu, Eastern Highlands, Madang, and Morobe. Cocoa Board has a clear Cocoa Industry Strategic Plan for 2016-2025 that requires a Government investment of K300 million to achieve a billion kina mark industry in five years. DAL sucks: First batch K4,842,144 plus second batch K2,757,851 equals K7,599,995 in total. Of the K15 million, DAL HQ alone sucks 50.66 percent in “administration” alone. What? Their names are used in Waigani sucks money but farmers lose big time and all the time.
A far cry
Prime Minister, James Marape thinks agriculture is “easy money”. In his 47th Independence message, he told PNG that agriculture could raise K10 billion “easy money” if one million rural families were engaged in toiling the soil and earning K10,000 each annually from agriculture – a “sleeping giant…that must be awakened now and not tomorrow”.
In 1977, the agriculture sector contributed as much as 37 percent of the GDP. Today, agriculture contributes less than 25 percent of the GDP. In the last 20 years, the agriculture sector received less than two percent of the national budget resulting in a dead-end to its core functions and effective service delivery mechanisms. The sector continues to suffer as its departmental head’s position is sailing in a debacle and continuous
Tug of war.
Within 12 months under Marape’s watch, DAL has changed heads four times (4 x) and staff performance and morale are at their lowest.
1. DAL HQ alone ate up K7,599,995 or 50.66 percent of the K15 million earmarked for 2022 price support and freight subsidy for rural farmers.
2. Furthermore to a hefty K5.2 bill wage bill for public servants every year, the “administration component” of any publicly funded project is always used as a means to loot from and cause misery to our common people. And there is no indication this evil will stop its prowess sooner or later.
3. It’s a far cry of the Prime Minister to make agriculture a K10 billion earner not now, not in five years or even 10 years if we cannot restore agriculture to its glory 1977 level.
The Author is a Freelance journalist based in Port Moresby, he can be contacted on. firstname.lastname@example.org