O’Neill gives Lupari job to probe funding claims

National

By HELEN TARAWA
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari will be directed to investigate the allegations of mismanagement, misuse and abuse of funds at the Department of Commerce and Industry.
He was responding to the allegations of misappropriation in the department involving funds allocated to major projects like the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ).
He told The National yesterday he would get Lupari to investigate them.
According to sources in the department, funds allocated to the PMIZ, Simbu Limestone Project in Chuave and the Sepik Special Economic Zone/Sepik plains had been used on non-project matters.
The sources alleged that from October 2017, funds had been approved and payments made to a family company (named).
It is alleged that a payment of K5609.70 was made on Oct 18, 2017, followed by a K18,000 payment on Oct 20.
It is also alleged that certain payments were authoritised prior to the closing of public accounts last year.
Information gathered from the Integrated Finance Management System (IFMS) indicated that 130 requisitions totalling to K2.3 million were raised and payments made. There were 71 requisitions for payment of goods and services made, including payments to a ticketing company (named). More than K540,000 was paid in cash.
Chief Superintendent Mathew Damaru, the director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, confirmed that the matter was under investigation.
Commerce and Industry Minister Wera Mori said he had never sanctioned the audit and the report was never authorised.
He explained that if any audit had to be done, it should be based on the recommendation of the Auditor-General to him to sanction.
“The three projects are very crucial to the development of the country’s economy,” he said.
“We are looking at reopening and reorganising our economic base and moving away from the extractive industries. And one of this is into production, manufacturing and merchandising.”

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