Judge concerned over project funds

National, Normal

A judge yesterday expressed concern about accountability of vast sums of public money at the disposal of Members of Parliament.
The funds were to be used for development projects.
Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika talked about accountability being a problem in PNG, when he was asked to lift the freeze on K25 million sitting in a bank account for the Koroba-Lake Kopiago electorate in the Southern Highlands province.
The freeze prevented Koroba-Lake Kopiago MP John Kekeno from accessing the money.
Mr Kekeno’s lawyers are applying to have the freeze lifted.
Lawyer Marley Nandi said he was making an urgent application to lift the freeze.
The plaintiff is Hewako Construction Ltd, which claims the money should be paid to it for the construction of the road.
But Justice Salika queried this.
He asked for the reason for the “urgent application”.
He asked them to tell the court the directions from authorities that the money was for them.
“We have a problem here in Papua New Guinea on accountability.
“What guarantee is there that the road will be built?
“Where is that authority for the release of the K25 million?
“Who is to supervise the use of K25 million? 
“I just cannot release K25 million to your client.
“I cannot say ‘here is your K25 million, use it as you please’.”
The accounts were frozen after a dispute arose over the K25 million of MoA funds released for the construction of a road project in the Koroba-Lake Kopiago electorate.
The accounts were frozen last Sept 2.
Mr Nandi said Hewako was a paper company that did not have machinery, asset, capital and capacity to build the road.
He argued that the plaintiff did not have the capacity and standing to freeze the K25 million, causing “hardship and suffering to the 80,000 people of Koroba-Lake Kopiago”.
Mr Nandi argued that the plaintiff had misled the court into granting the orders.
He alleged the plaintiff was not a company registered under the Companies Act.
Justice Salika adjourned the matter to today for a decision at 1.30pm.