By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
FORESTS Minister Belden Namah describes the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) statements last week on the affairs of the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) as “outdated and misleading”.
Mr Namah was upset, that through the media, PNGFA was labelled as a corrupt institution with no financial systems.
PAC found PNGFA lost more than K100 million and K8 million in missing vouchers.
The minister, during a press meet last Friday, said as far as his office and the authority were concerned, “these are dead issues”.
He questioned PAC’s integrity and suggested that Parliament should sanction committee reports prior to being disclosed publicly.
Mr Namah said the PAC should give praise where it was due and not dwell on bygones that would only tarnish the good work of many agencies, like the PNGFA, which had embarked on a get-back-on-track policy.
“When the issues were raised in 2008, the managing director of the authority, Kanawi Pouru, responded immediately.
“When it was brought up by the PAC in its first meet for 2010 last week, the information had made it look like the authority had lost or misused K100 million overnight.
“The fact is that the K100 million is an aggregate or total of the authority’s national budget appropriation for the five years – 2000 to 2005,” he said.
He also raised concerns of media reports of K8 million in royalty vouchers gone missing for the years 2001-04 and 2007.
“The process of collecting and accounting for royalty involves not only Forestry officers but landowners themselves,” he said.
Mr Namah, as a forest landowner himself, explained that landowners know their right to collect royalties at agreed intervals and this ensured the system was effective.
“If there was gross abuse, landowners would know instantly and front up at our office, this is not happening now and will not happen.”
He was concerned that the PAC, through the media, was misleading the public as to the current stand and current situation of PNGFA.
“The use of words such as ‘misappropriation’ and ‘lost’ by the PAC are strong words and defamatory in nature.
“It is unfair for PNGFA to be ridiculed using strong words such as misappropriations are defamatory to PNGFA and my office.”
He urged the PAC to get its facts right and issue statements that were updated and reflected the current status of agencies rather then dwell on past issues.
Mr Namah, backed by PNGFA managing director Mr Pouru, said the financial accounts for the five years had been audited by the Auditor-General and all payment vouchers and records were kept by the authority as demanded by law.
“The process had been completed and opinions had been expressed which includes disclaimers that the management is addressing.
“May I make it clear to the public that my managing director and his management have brought back transparency and accountability to the authority and we continue to strive for the best,” Mr Namah said.