The National, Monday June 24th, 2013
THE claim by Opposition leader Belden Namah that Finance Minister James Marape is withholding district services improvement programme (DSIP) funds from members of the opposition is indeed cause for concern.
Namah claims that Marape has been “discriminatory and unfair” in the distribution of DSIP funds, saying that his Vanimo Green River electorate had yet to receive its K10 million budget allocation.
“To date, not even a single toea has been paid into the Vanimo Green River district council’s DSIP trust account,” Namah told a news conference last Thursday.
Also present at the press conference were the other six opposition MPs.
Apparently, the opposition leader has lost his patience with Marape who had earlier said in a letter to Namah “… the delay in the DSIP funding was due to cash flow and tight management of the deficit budget”.
The finance minister had stated that he was acting within the requirements of Section 3 of the Public Finance Management Act.
“These actions were in no way intended to penalise the members of the opposition,” Marape said in his letter.
But upset by the prolonged delay, Namah last Thursday pointedly reminded the Government: “We are already in the middle of 2013.”
Is the minister indulging in political gamesmanship about the disbursement of DSIP funding to all MPs regardless of which side of the Parliament chamber they sit in?
In the past few months, Government MPs and ministers have been reportedly making numerous commitments on funding for development and other activities in their electorates, communities and around the country.
Apart from the DSIP funds, we have been wondering where the money for these additional commitments will actually come from and whether they have been planned for and are part of the 2013 national budget.
The finance minister really needs to come out and clear up these issues simply because there’s only six months left in the so-called “Year of Implementation”.
Marape’s earlier clarification to the Opposition leader that “… by the year’s end, all MPs will have received K10 million each for their respective electorates” is hardly convincing for a state minister who is not only in charge of the national coffers but is also the chief financial officer of the O’Neill Government.
It is imperative that Marape also clarifies Namah’s claim that there is
a “huge discrepancy” between the DSIP amounts
received by Government MPs and members on the opposition benches.
While we don’t think it is a ploy by the Government to lure any more opposition MPs, as they already have more than the absolute majority, the onus is on the finance minister to ensure that opposition MPs do get their full DSIP funding without having to wait until year’s end.
However, if the Government is intent on frustrating the seven-member Opposition, then the finance minister is doing a great job of it.
Nonetheless, Marape must be mindful that further delays in the disbursement of DSIP funds will not only hurt Namah and his MPs but, more importantly, affect the delivery of vital government goods and services to citizens in those seven electorates represented by the opposition members.
The bottom line is that the people of Vanimo Green River, Bulolo, Rabaul, Kundiawa-Gembogl, Huon Gulf, North Bougainville and Madang regional electorates will be the victims of any prolonged delay or indecision to release the full DSIP funds to their MPs.
Indeed, it would wise for the prime minister to intervene in this matter.
Peter O’Neill must ensure that his finance minister does the right thing by people living in those seven electorates for they too are citizens and taxpayers.
Our people expect nothing less of a Government that professes to be responsible, transparent and accountable.