Audit team to probe development budget

National, Normal

The National – Friday, February 11, 2011

AN independent audit team will be appointed to look into the implementation of last year’s development budget following doubts over the development of many projects.
Huge allocations were made in the budget for these projects.
These misgivings had also led to a four-week suspension of National Planning secretary Joseph Lelang by the National Executive Council, which took effect yesterday. Ruby Zariga was appointed to act in the position.
The office of the prime minister confirmed Lelang’s suspension but denied media reports of a similar action against Kokopo MP and Communication and Information Minister Patrick Tammur.
Reports yesterday said the independent audit team would be appointed by the Treasury Department.
Lelang was suspended after a letter, allegedly written to National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, was leaked out.
In that letter last Dec 6, Lelang had allegedly questioned the political directives by Finance and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neill, Tiensten and former treasurer Patrick Pruaitch to release K112 million for various projects.
The directives were said to have forced the department to honour certain government commitments last year, advising the department to find money and make the necessary payments irrespective of its source.
The alleged letter by Lelang stated that on Aug 12 last year, the department was directed by O’Neill at Havana Club in the presence of Tiensten and Pruaitch to release K51 million from the development budget to shore up coalition numbers in view of a proposed vote of no-confidence expected last November.
Another K33 million was alleged to have been raised, upon directions from Tiensten and Arthur Somare, for presentation at the inauguration of the Hela province in Southern Highlands.
Lelang allegedly stated in the letter that from political directions, a total of K28 million was paid to 14 provincial governors (at K2 million each) when they were only entitled to K1 million each under the provincial service improvement programme.
However, the PNG Trade Union Congress had called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to reinstate Lelang.
Union general secretary John Paska said Lelang had paid the ultimate price of being made a sacrificial lamb.
“It is apparent that some people want him out of the way in order to stage an all-out assault on the public purse.”