THE Department of National Planning and Monitoring and the Office of Rural Development have been political footballs for so long it is no wonder they lack the institutional memory, discipline and procedure.
Such is the verdict of the Public Accounts Committee which has traced the history of both department and office back 14 years.
Said the PAC: “In 14 years the Department had appeared, disappeared, re-emerged, changed its status from an office to a department and back again, been united under a parent department, removed from that department, subsumed to another department, had its name changed five times, received powers and responsibilities, had them removed and then restored again, been united with the Office of Rural Development and then separated, had its own budget and then been deprived of it, received the budget back and been given responsibility for implementation of the National Development Budget.”
The Department has had a number of forms and names in the past. It has grown and shrunk in size and importance according to political whim and NEC directives since 1991.
It appears the Department does not have a statutory basis nor clearly defined statutory purposes, yet has the status of a full Government Department and all the responsibilities that attach to that status.
The role of the Department has remained virtually the same over the years, but successive Governments have meddled with its form apparently without any clear idea of how the Department should be structured or where it should stand in the order of Government agencies.
The Department clearly had functional responsibilities at the national level with its clients being at national, international, provincial and district level.
The role of the Department was and is still to operate as a planning agency. It was not intended to act as an implementation agency, however recent Governments have reshaped the Department to accept responsibility for the co-ordination, management and implementation of a huge development budget – a task that the Department was never intended or equipped to carry out.
Said the PAC: “The mix of responsibility for setting medium and long-term national goals, annual themes and coordination of these into sectoral strategies and a Public Investment Programme with the management of a huge development budget, in the opinion of this Committee, may well give the Department, a conflict of interest.
“It is no longer a dispassionate planning agency, but is now responsible for the success of its own planning or Government policy – a role for which it was never prepared or capable.
“It seems to this Committee that the Department has grown in a chaotic and unplanned manner and that powers and responsibilities have been accreted with little forward planning to enable the Department to absorb these responsibilities.”
Despite that NEC decision 251 of 2005 gave the Department the duty to ensure and be accountable 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 and management, monitoring and preparation of all development programs and projects and policies to ensure that national development targets are met.
Additional duties include 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 NGO’s; 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 NEC and National Parliament on the development status of the nation and on the implementation of development plans and programs.
The department is accountable for the administration and effectiveness of a number of statutory grants and programmes.