How much do trips cost taxpayers

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday November 1st, 2013

 THE O’Neill Government’s much heralded ‘year of implementation’ is fast drawing to a close.

With only two months remaining before we farewell 2013, what has actually been achieved by this government in its first full year of office.

No doubt, the politicians and bureaucrats will boast of significant achievements, particularly at the provincial and district levels where millions of kina have been dished out from the District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP).

For the past 10 months, our pages have been full of stories and pictures of ministers and Members of Parliament handing out cheques for all kinds of projects and services in their electorates.

DSIP funds are budgeted for under the government’s money plan and their expenditure should enable the implementation of projects and services in those districts and local level government areas.

On the other hand, some ministers and MPs have been making funding commitments and handing out cheques for activities in their districts and electorates that seem to be outside the normal DSIP and financial guidelines.

Have these funding commitments and payments been catered for under the 2013 National Budget?

We hope so because the Government can ill afford to blow out the budget deficit any further than the current alarming figure. 

It seems our politicians have a habit of plucking large amounts of public money from the air for so-called development purposes without adhering to proper financial guidelines.

If MPs are spending their discretionary funds indiscriminately for their own benefit and for political support then they must be reined in and must face the consequences of wasting public money.

After all, these discretionary funds come from the taxes paid by the hardworking people, companies and other organisations in this country.

There’s no doubt that our people, especially taxpayers, are fed up with politicians and bureaucrats who continue to waste public funds on unnecessary expenditures such as overseas trips.

It seems that taxpayers in this country are being hit hard by the Government while politicians and bureaucrats are going on spending sprees with no care in the world.

At least the Government has finally come to its senses on this issue with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill assuring taxpayers and businesses this week that he will take measures to stop extravagant and unnecessary expenditure by some of his ministers and their bureaucrats.

It is totally absurd that while the prime minister is concerned about the implementation of his government’s policies and programmes, some of his key ministers and bureaucrats are having a holiday, at public expense, in some far-flung region of the world.

About this time last year, O’Neill imposed a ban on overseas travel and black-listed certain politicians and bureaucrats.

The ban was quite effective, at least for the first half of this year but then it became business as usual as the politicians and bureaucrats started to slip out of the country one by one and later in droves. They were hardly noticed and no one in government really cared until the lights went out in Lae last weekend. 

The prime minister vowed during a radio talkback show this week that heads would roll at the country’s power supplier, whose chief executive and board chairman were globetrotting with the minister responsible for state utilities.

O’Neill has now blamed the minister for approving the overseas junket and plans to find out why it was necessary to send a large entourage overseas at the expense of the people.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” an irate PM said.

It seems the minister had approved the trip by the company board and management to Israel, Iceland and to the Rugby League World Cup in England.

We wonder how much the trip cost the taxpayers of this country and how will it benefit the country and people.

The minister said in a press release early this week that the Iceland trip was a fact-finding mission to harness that country’s expertise in thermal power.

This could well be the answer to Lae’s constant power problems but only the minister knows when that will be a reality. In the meantime, we all look forward to the next Kumuls’ World Cup match against the Samoans.