By FRANK SENGE KOLMA
THE Government has vested far too much responsibility and far too numerous duties and obligations in the Department of Planning and Implementation with far too little support or care shown as to whether or not it can undertake all these roles.
As a result the department’s performance has deteriorated to the point where its performance in managing public monies is, in the words of the Public Accounts Committee, “at best, marginal”.
The problems of management, accountability, transparency, competence and ability to perform are so profound, the PAC said, that it is “incapable of competently and lawfully managing even (its) own departmental budget”.
The PAC made its investigations and made this startling conclusions in 200 but more recent reports of the Auditor-General in 2008 concludes that “there were no improvements in the control environment in the first half of 2008 calendar year compared to the results from the audit in 2006”.
While there are many reasons why the systems and processes might have been allowed to deteriorate to the debilitating levels reported, one clear culprit becomes obvious.
One department has been burdened with far too much responsibility.
This department has been found to have been incapable of managing even a K4 million.
Yet this same department is given the responsibility to manage the Development Budget which now this year is over K4 billion.
Said the PAC: “The committee and the citizens of Papua New Guinea could, quite properly, ask how a department that cannot manage its own finances according to law can be expected to manage a huge Development Budget with any degree of efficiency or competence.”
At the same time it is given oversight responsibility over the Office of Rural Development which is responsible for every parliamentarian’s rural development funds, now given under the guise of district services improvement programme funds at K2 million for each of the 89 open MPs this year and the provincial services improvement programme at K1 million for each of the 20 governors.
The PAC makes the following comment in relation to the department and the Office of Rural Development: “(They) 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.
“Incompetence and inability compounded by poor morale, corruption and almost total loss of command and control by management in both the Department of National Planning and Monitoring 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.”
Such failure over many years has resulted in huge wastage of public funds appropriated for development programmes and resulted in the poor delivery of goods and services to the population.
As if the above responsibilities were not enough the Department is further responsible for:
Less Developed District Grants;
Special District Development Grants;
District and Provincial Support Grant (Discretionary);
District and Provincial Support Grant (Non-Discretionary);
District Transport Improvement Programme; and Special Support Grants.
Each of these grants runs into the tens of millions of kina.
Further, as a result of specific responsibilities of the department given by NEC Decision 251/2005, the department is also responsible for:
The formulation of National Development Plans and policies and strategies for medium and long term development with the objective of national unity, basic education and primary health care for all;
Management, monitoring and preparation of all development programmes and projects and policies to ensure that national development targets are met;
The development, management and monitoring of national planning and data and information system at national and provincial level in cooperation with all of government, the private sector, churches and NGOs;
The management and coordination of all international development assistance to Papua New Guinea and to ensure that international aid achieves national development objectives; and
The preparation of regular reports to the National Executive Council and National Parliament on the development status of the nation and on the implementation of development plans and programmes.