Reports by BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed yesterday that more than K8 million in royalty payment vouchers, for the years 2001-04 and 2007, are missing from the records of the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA).
The PAC, in its first meet for the year, disclosed that records maintained by PNGFA field officers showed that royalty receipts should have been K8.6 million more than reported by the accounts department.
PAC chairman and Nawaeb MP Timothy Bonga, when presenting these findings, said “this committee is concerned over the significant amount of money that appears to be untraceable and unauditable”.
These findings were some of many others that surfaced when the PAC commenced an inquiry last year into the affairs of the PNGFA, who are the custodians of landowner royalty trust accounts and the re-afforestation levy trust account.
The PAC had completed part of the inquiry but adjourned to obtain a proper and deeper audit report from the Auditor-General’s Office.
Last May 22, Deloittes Touché Tomatsu, hired by the Auditor-General to conduct the audit, delivered the report which was tabled by the AG’s Office to the PAC yesterday.
The findings were that there were missing royalty payment vouchers for the years 2001-04 and 2007 and the amount of the missing vouchers was more than K8 million.
Although the findings were made, according to the PAC, the authority claimed that there were no vouchers missing in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and only minimal numbers in 2004 and 2007.
Mr Bonga said “it is clear that these documents do not exist or if they do, they were not going to be produced to the Auditor-General for reasons that we can only speculate on”.
Other findings were that there were no acquittals for payment produced to the AG for reforestation levy trust account for the years 2003 to August 2008 (excluding 2006).
“This was disputed by the forest authority but the Auditor-General quite clearly sought the documents but was refused,” he said.
Mr Bonga said it was clear that the officer in charge “would rather be prosecuted for failure to cooperate with the Auditor-General than to produce the documents and be prosecuted for what their contents reveal”.
“So be it,” he said before saying that it was an “utterly unacceptable” conduct and the PAC intends to make referrals for investigation and prosecution.
This is the path the PAC will embark on as it was concerned that “until 2008 the entire performance” of the authority, particularly its management of public and trust funds, has been “completely unsatisfactory”.
The PAC has confirmed that it will revisit the PNGFA again this year and will call for specialised and deep audit inquiries.