By ISAAC NICHOLAS
The Works Department is in the red and cannot carry out urgent repair work on the Highlands Highway and other roads in the country.
The department owes K30 million to contractors, the same amount that is allocated for maintenance of roads in the 2010 Budget.
And Works, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Don Polye is pointing the finger at the National Planning Department, which he said should be abolished and made only an agency of the Prime Minister’s Department.
Mr Polye and Works secretary Joel Luma called a press conference to let out their frustrations.
They stopped short of calling names, choosing instead to blame a system that they say was not working.
“I am sick and tired of funds being siphoned off and misused. I am not going to sit down and take my department for a ride.”
Mr Polye said money allocated to Works should be released to their trust account immediately and not kept at a department where “there is no transparency”.
“National Planning is not and should not be a department. It should become a monitoring agency within the Prime Minister’s Department. Right now there is less transparency there,” the minister said.
Mr Polye said the K30 million in the 2010 Budget for routine maintenance was not enough.
“When that money is released, it will be used to pay an outstanding bill of K30 million owed to contractors who have worked on a credit basis.”
He said the department could not do routine maintenance work on bridges swept away by floods in West New Britain and Oro and national roads in the country.
The minister said he would be pushing for a Supplementary Budget to be introduced to cater for road maintenance which he said needed at least K300 million.
He said the K20 million requested since November last year for urgent repair work on the sections of the Highlands Highway, including the slip at Daulo Pass, was still sitting at the Department of National Planning and Monitoring.
Mr Polye said Mr Luma had been running in and out of National Planning and he himself had to make a follow-up yesterday but was told by an officer he had forgotten about the request.
Mr Polye gave harsh words without naming any politician or public servant for the stuck-up but blamed the system.
“I am still waiting for the K30 million from National Planning. It’s not the minister or the Prime Minister but the system.
“It is the responsibility of the National Planning to ensure that funds are released timely for maintenance.”
He said there were two road blocks in Daulo, three bridges washed away in West New Britain, slip on the Sepik Highway and potholes along Hiritano and Magi highways that needed attention.
He warned the Highlands Highway could be cut off for days or weeks if the Department of Planning failed to release the funds.