By FRANK SENGE KOLMA
THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has recommended that the billion kina development budget be removed from the Department of National Planning and Monitoring and reposed in an independent agency.
The recommendation follows discoveries of serious flaws and anomalies in the management of the Development Budget by the department.
The same suggestion has been made about the department’s management of the political district services improvement programme funds which have recently increased to well over K2 million per year per electorate.
The PAC has reported that the Department of National Planning and Monitoring and the Office of Rural Development have “profound problems in management, accountability, transparency, competence and ability to perform their functions”.
Further it reported that the two entities are “unable to manage, implement, control, co-ordinate, oversee, monitor, account for, audit or apply public monies in the form of development budgets, programmes or projects to any acceptable standard of competence”.
It said: “Incompetence and inability compounded by poor morale, corruption and almost total loss of command and control by management in both the National Planning Department and the Office of Rural Development have been very largely responsible for poor or non-existent delivery of services and development to our remote (and not so remote) areas and is responsible for the failure to manage or coordinate the implementation of development programs or projects.
“This failure has, over many years, resulted in huge wastage of public monies appropriated to development programs and projects, to the detriment of our citizens.”
The PAC further recommenced that immediate attention be paid to completely redesigning the scheme of management and implementation of development budgets.
“The country urgently needs a professional, planned, highly-effective, responsive and properly funded and staffed agency to take control of service delivery and development implementation – particularly competent and ongoing oversight and management of projects and contractors,” the PAC said in its report to Parliament.
“We recommend that the current management team of both the department and the Office of Rural Development be immediately replaced with competent and professional mangers and administrators capable of bringing modern and functioning systems to the two entities, pending longer term changes.”
The PAC also recommended that the Government bolsters the department and office with experts in the fields of law, auditing and accounting to guide and control senior decision makers and bring immediate transparency and accountability to the Department while longer term changes are considered.
For the longer term, the PAC has recommended that the “entire system of service and development delivery in Papua New Guinea to be revamped”.
Part of such an exercise should be the introduction of a competent modern and expert implementation agency and system to lawfully apply and supervise the implementation of development budgets.
Any system that replaces or reforms the current one must be based on a precise and clear statutory foundation that concisely sets forth directives, powers, performance benchmarks, audit control, penalties for non compliance or failure to achieve targets, preconditions which presently exist on paper but which is rarely followed.
In closing the PAC said: “We are left with a troubling doubt that the Public Service can be trusted to act honestly or effectively in managing vital national development without sweeping changes and reform – beginning with Government bringing the National Planning Department, the Office of Rural Development and the public service in general, under some form of control and accountability – as our Constitution provides.
“The Committee concludes that if the failings in service delivery and development implementation are allowed to continue and public money is mismanaged and misapplied as it is now, our people will become increasingly alienated and angry at our failure – and this is a situation that we cannot allow to happen.”