K60m ‘gone’

Main Stories, National


MORE than K60 million allocated by the National Government for emergency relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro province in 2007 has “gone missing”.
Provincial authorities yesterday briefed Public Service, Works and Transport Minister Peter O’Neill of this shocking situation when he flew into the province.
But they did not pin the blame on anyone.
Oro Restoration Authority chairman Sinai Brown is in East New Britain and will be flying into Oro today to be briefed on the flooding which wreaked havoc in the province at the weekend (See story on Page 2).
Provincial administrator Owen Awaita, told Mr O’Neill during a briefing in Popondetta that K11 million was allocated for restoration work during the state of emergency (SOE) declared after the 2007 disaster, while another K50 million was parked at the Department of Treasury in Port Moresby.
He said these funds were commitments made by the National Government towards restoration work but the funds had not reached the province.
He said a commitment of K600,000 was made to Girua landowners during the SOE period, which  was not honored, and which was now causing a problem for authorities who are being denied use of customary land for a bypass for supplies to flow through.
Mr Awaita was responding to questions raised by Sohe MP and Vice-Minister for Public Service, Anthony Nene, on the use of the funds that could have mitigated some of the damage, as well as the outstanding payment to the landowners.
Mr Nene said K20 million had been released to the Oro Restoration Authority last month and asked whether those funds could be accessed to help with the current situation. Works secretary Joel Luma confirmed that the National Executive Council had made a commitment of K273 million towards restoration work in Oro.
He said of these funds, K11 million was earmarked for the Works Department but these funds never came through to Works to do restoration work.
He said another K50 million was parked in Waigani and he had no clue where the money was now.
Mr O’Neill said he would bring the matter up with the Department of Finance and Treasury when he returned to Port Moresby.
He said the National Government had allocated K2 million for urgent work and would provide more funds if needed.
Mr O’Neill, Mr Nene, Mr Luma and Northern and Works Department Highlands regional manager, Brian Alois, flew into Popondetta yesterday to assess the damage caused by heavy flooding over the weekend.
Mr O’Neill said the restoration issue was not under his authority and asked the provincial authorities to provide alternatives for now and what was available to fix the current problem.