The National, Wednesday December 23rd, 2015
THE distribution of District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) funds has been a contentious issue since the O’Neill Government took office in 2012.
The Government maintains that it has been in distributing the funds to the 89 districts throughout the country while the Opposition has accused them of discriminatory practices.
With the closure of government accounts last week, Opposition members like outspoken Bulolo MP Sam Basil are still concerned that they will not get their total DSIP funding for 2015.
Basil said during the Budget sitting of Parliament that his district had received only K4 million of the K10 million budget allocation and it was uncertain whether the balance will be paid before year’s end. He had also questioned Finance Minister James Marape whether the remaining balance of K15 million would be paid by the end of this year or rolled over to the New Year.
Basil stressed that the DSIP allocation this year was K15 million for each district, an increase of K5 million from the 2014 allocation.
In response, Marape said the additional K5 million was allocated especially for health and education infrastructure.
The funds have been parked at the National Planning Department waiting for districts to submit plans for health and education health infrastructure.
Marape had urged all provinces and districts to submit their plans to National Planning so that funds could be released.
In supporting his minister, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan clarified that the remaining balance of DSIP and Provincial Service Improvement Program (PSIP) funds would be paid by the close of government accounts.
He assured MPs that each district had received K6 million and the remaining balance of K4 million would be paid by the close of government accounts.
Despite fears by Basil and other MPs, Ngangan said the remaining funds would not be rolled over to next year. He added that the disbursements of funds to the districts and the provinces were based on government cash flows.
“They were budgetary allocations by the Government and it will be paid once the funds are available. If we have budget appropriations, that doesn’t mean that the provinces and districts automatically receive all their funds. It depends on the cash flows. MPs in the government or opposition all received their K6 million.
“We have given assurance that the funds will be paid to each districts and provinces before the close of accounts.”
Moreover, Ngangan pointed out that the Finance Department did not differentiate between Government and Opposition MPs in the disbursement of DSIP and PSIP funds.
“Whether an MP in the opposition of government, everyone gets it, there is no distinction. Some MPs in opposition are complaining but that is politics. We are not only paying DSIP and PSIP funds to MPs in the Government.”
We had hoped the assurance by the acting Finance Secretary would allay fears and concerns by Opposition MPs.
However, just a few days after the close of government accounts, the Bulolo MP was again screaming foul about the “unfair distribution” of DSIP funds to his electorate.
The Pangu Pati leader took a swipe at the O’Neill Government during the launching of projects for the Goilala district on Monday by local MP William Samb. Basil claimed that Bulolo got a better deal from the previous Somare regime, which allocated the full K10 million DSIP funds.
“Now under the O’Neill government, when they passed the budget they give Bulolo district K5 million out of our K15 million, last year he gave us K7 million from our K10 million allocation, this is unfair distribution.
“You cannot do that to us. We have resources, like the gold mine in Bulolo, which is pouring money into the country’s economy”.
“Is this because we are in the Opposition and the Government is discriminating us with this tactic? This is not right.”
Despite the assurance from his departmental head, the onus is on the Finance Minister to ensure that Basil and other Opposition MPs get their full funding for 2015.
Marape should be mindful that further delays in the disbursement of DSIP funds will not only hurt these leaders but more importantly affect the delivery of vital government goods and services to their people.