ABG seeks K15 million from state

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE Autonomous Bougainville Go­vernment (ABG) is still waiting for the national government to release this year’s restoration and development grant of K15 million, Finance Minister Albert Punghau told the Bougainville House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Punghau was responding to questions raised by members on the first day of the region’s assembly sitting in Buka.
Responding to questions raised by members on the progress of this year’s grant, Punghau said they were waiting for a response from the Minister for Finance and Treasury on the release of the grant.
The grant is a constitutional arrangement under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
He said as soon as the grant was released, a supplementary budget would be drawn up to prioritise the use of these monies as ABG did not include the K15 million grant in its budget this year based on last year’s experience of a 12-month delay in the release of the 2010 K15 million grant.
Punghau said last year’s K15 million was paid by the state in March and the money spent on paying school fee subsidies for Bougainville students in the region and around the country.
In addition, it was used to pay outstanding bills accrued from last year’s ABG election.
Punghau was questioned over allegations of misuse of public funds by the Bougainville finance division.
“These are mere allegations and no one has come up with hard evidence to prove the allegations,” he said.
“I challenge members to submit any information and hard evidence you have to the ABG chief administrator who is the legal authority to deal with these issues,” Punghau said.
He said since taking up office, he had put a stop to any person, including former and current ABG members, using their position to order finance officers to release monies without proper authorisation.
“No person has the authority to order my officers to draw out money that belongs to the people of Bougainville without proper authority,” he said.
He voiced concern that Bougainville did not have an internal auditor despite having the position advertised three times this year.
He said the package was not attractive enough to attract suitable candidates and he urged ABG to address the issue, including improving the package to attract suitable candidates.