Lelang alleges mafia ring in planning dept

National, Normal

The National – Friday, June 24, 2011

THERE is major corruption within the Department of National Planning and Monitoring where millions of kina of public funds have been misused, its secretary Joseph Lelang said.
In a press conference yesterday, Lelang said a new “mafia ring” involving senior officers of the department and including “one or two ministers and several ministerial staff were involved in the theft.
He claimed several funds were released for unknown purposes.
He said since his suspension in February on allegations of misconduct, the department released several funds.
He said when the court ordered his reinstatement early this month, he was advised that out of a total direct government funding of K2.1 billion in the development budget, K1.9 billion had been released within three months, from March to May.
He said about K735 million was put into a trust account under the Finance Department while K1.2 billion was released by the department to projects and programmes of government.
“I am unable to see how the K735 million of development monies held by the Finance Department is being spent or dished out but I was only able to obtain from records the government programmes and projects the department funded,” Lelang claimed.
He said he had sent a special report to Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal exposing all the corruption that had been happening in the department during the period of his suspension.
He said he indicated in the report that there was an unequal distribution of the country’s resources between March and May, “where certain electorates continued to receive large funding at the expense of the rest of the country”.
He said he recommended in the report a need for a commission of inquiry into the 2011 development budget to inquire how public funds in millions of kina had been dished out within three months.
He said he had told police to carry out investigations into the whereabouts of the funds and prosecute those involved.
He said although he was suspended from office, the outcome of the independent investigation into his conduct did not find any evidence of misconduct.
Lelang said before his appointment as the department’s secretary, “the department was in a bad state”.
He said the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report into the National Planning and Monitoring Department tabled in parliament in April 2008, showed gross abuse of public monies and mismanagement of development budgets by senior management of the department at that time.
Leland said he had managed to overhaul the department, restructured it and implemented many changes in the running of the office when he took over as secretary in 2008.