All’s not well with our accounts

Editorial, Normal

The National , Tuesday, May 31, 2011

READERS will probably be bored to death about this newspaper’s constant criticism of the state of public accounts in this country.
We keep harping on the dismal state of public accounts because it is the single biggest indication that all is not well in Papua New Guinea.
This condition alone tells us why goods and services have not filtered down to the bulk of people, a condition which is complained of perennially.
Last week, another series of reports were tabled in parliament by the Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts.
There is absolutely nothing new in the reports – the same old dismal state of affairs with the public accounts of Papua New Guinea. The only difference is one gets the feeling it is getting worse.
The committee rejected outright the public accounts for the financial year 2007 in its entirety. That is to suggest that any records of how PNG spent its money that year had been found to be unreliable that the auditor-general and the public accounts committee had both agreed that the records were “unreliable, incomplete, misleading, untimely and of limited value to users” that the two organisations had agreed to disclaim or disregard them.
Receipts and payments, investments of money, acquisition and disposal of assets are negligible and not in keeping with the requirement of the Public Finances Management Act 1995.
Monies are said to have been spent in excess of the appropriation limit or without valid appropriation which is in breach of the constitution.
The most basic of government bookkeeping and accounting principles have been violated to the extent that the auditors were unable to confirm the balance of the public account or confirm the opening and closing balances of the consolidated revenue fund.
There were substantial variances between the Internal Revenue Commission and public account taxation revenue.
Even employee and salary records are missing or incomplete.
The list of anomalies runs through thousands of pages. No department, public hospital, provincial government or government agency is spared.
Now, remember that 2007 was an important year. It was the year of the general election so it was a year of heavy political spending.
It was the year there were a number of supplementary budgets, including one immediately after the new government took office and a single unprecedented payment of K10 million was made for every district of PNG.
The money was given ostensibly to support each district in the country but in reality with such minimal or no capacity at the district level for management and accounting of the money, it was a political “gift” for new MPs who had just come in from a very expensive exercise and who had so much promises to fulfil. There can be no records of what happened to that K10  million.
It was given out as  DSIP but such did not exist then. What did exist under that name (DSIP) was completely different and complementary to the district treasury rollout programme.
Under the DSIP, each district was to receive complete district level revamping with a contingent of policemen complete with vehicles and houses, agricultural extension officers, education advisers and inspectors, medical team headed by a very senior doctor or health extension officer, warders and a rural lock-up, treasury and finance officers and a bank branch and postal services.
This was a far superior plan but it got slaughtered on the altar of politics and, today, money in K2 million lots are handed out to each open MP as DSIP funds. A further K1 million is given to MPs under the national agriculture development programme with many more millions parked in Education Department for distribution as Resi funds, in health and in transport and works.
Never before has so much money be placed directly in the hands of politicians and for all intent and purpose there now appear to be no records for them.
It is not just DSIP funds that are being complained off.
The entire K8 billion budget cannot now be accounted for and the many other billions in trust funds that have been distributed in supplementary budgets cannot now be accounted for.
If this country cannot fix its accounts, it does not matter a wit how much more money is to come in from the liquefied natural gas project or from any other of the exciting new developments taking place.
It will all be wasted and that is a fact.