Lack of Technical Capacity and Accountability at District, LLG Level a Concern; Pagen

Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen has called on the government to build up the technical capacity at the District and Province District base Educational institutions to better manage large amounts of funds being disbursed to them through policies like the Service Improvement Program (SIP) and the Tuition Fee Free Education (TFF).

Mr Pagen said the lack of technical capacity at the district and institutional level has resulted in a lot of abuse and misuse of public funds resulting in a lot of projects not being completed because proper technical evaluation and financial evaluation required by the Public Finance Management Act in the procurement of so many of these projects are not followed. 

He also suggested that procurement should be done by an independent body and not the District Development Authorities (DDAs) and schools to avoid the possibility of compromise and conflict of interest. The DDA can procure a project that is worth millions of kina as set by the Department of Finance through their Financial Instruction. 

Mr Pagen said part of the problem schools face with appointing their contractors for infrastructural development was that the projects are left incomplete and funds not accounted for due to no proper procedure committee established in Districts and Schools and officers with technical and financial evaluation backgrounds.

“At this stage, there is nothing like a technical evaluation committee or a financial evaluation committee at the District level”

Mr Pagen said the Government failed to build capacity at the district level, the ward level and the project level before implementing the District Service Improvement Program (DSIP) and TFF by disbursing large amounts of funds into the respective policy areas.

The government has to build up capacity first before it can implement such policies.

He said in the past, expenditure was governed by the Public Financial Management Act, unlike the current practice where large amounts of money are disbursed to the rural areas through the District Services Improvement Program (DSIP). Currently, the amount stands at almost K2.5 billion.

“However, there is no capacity in terms of procurement. The DDA identifies the project and allocates funds through its budget. When it comes to the implementation of the procurement funds there are only two levels where the law applies for procurement. The national and provincial procurement boards by which the provincial procurement has left it to the districts to do their procuring, but they do not have the capacity because the government has not created positions for procurement offices.” Mr Pagen said. 

Mr Pagen recommended that the government should create positions in the district structure for technical and financial officers. He also recommended that the authority to procure must be removed from the school’s headmasters and chairman of the school board in the case of TFF funds.

Mr Pagen said so much money has been allocated and paid to bogus contractors who build cheap and low-standard infrastructure that deteriorates in less than two years resulting in schools needing more funds over the years. 

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