The Ombudsman Commission wishes to clarify the doubts and concerns raised through print and social media regarding its Direction to oversee the release and spending of all public funds during the 2022 National General Election.
On the 12th of May 2022, consistent with the advice on the date of the issuance of the Writs for the 2022 National General Election, the Ombudsman Commission released its Direction under Section 27(4) of the Constitution to the following:
- All Provincial Governors and their respective Joint Provincial Planning and Budget Priorities Committees; and
- All Members of Open Electorates And Their Respective District Development Authority (DDA) And DDA Board Members (Previously Known As Joint District Planning And Budget Priorities Committee); And
- All Members of the Local-Level Governments; And
- Minister for Treasury; And
- Minister for Finance; and
- Minister for National Planning and Monitoring; and
- Minister for Rural Development and Implementation; and
- Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources; and
- Minister for Forests; and
- Minister for Works and Highways; and
- Secretary, Department of Treasury; and
- Secretary, Department of Finance; and
- Secretary, Department of National Planning and District Development; and
- Secretary, Department of Rural Development and Implementation; and Secretary for Works; and
- Managing Director, National Fisheries Authority; and
- Managing Director, National Forest Service; and
- Chief Executive Officer, National Gaming Control Board; and
- All Provincial Administrators; and
- All Chief Executive Officers of the District Development Authorities (previously known as District Administrators of the Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee); and
- All Provincial Finance Managers; and
- All District Finance Managers; and
- Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea; and
- All Heads of Commercial Banks; and
- All Heads of the Respective Business Arms of the Provinces and Districts.
The Commission’s Direction was specific to all public funds held in the Provinces and Districts, including the Covid-19 Pandemic Funds held in the Provincial and District Covid-19 Emergency Trust Accounts and public funds stored in the respective Accounts, held and operated by the respective Business Arms of the Provinces and Districts.
The Direction includes funds withdrawn from any Banks in Papua New Guinea, including the Bank of Papua New Guinea, by or on behalf of the Government of Papua New Guinea regarding public monies in the form of Capital Grants or PIP Grants.
The Direction does not affect the daily operations of the various institutions in terms of the recurrent budget; however, it states that all relevant authorities should seek clearance from the Ombudsman Commission before transactions can be effected through the respective Commercial Banks and the Bank of Papua New Guinea.
The Ombudsman Commission has determined that for any claims for funding for approved projects, the Provincial or District Administration should furnish to the Ombudsman Commission all relevant documents for verification before the release of funds for any such projects, including:-
- Copy of the Project Development Form;
- Copy of the PEC/DDA meeting Resolutions/Decisions;
- Copy of the Decision of the meeting;
- Copy of the Budget appropriation for the project;
- Copy of the Contract between the PEC/DDA and the Contractor for the project;
- The copy of the Invoice from the service provider for the payment by the PEC/DDA;
- Certified claims by Department of Works for both Minor and Major contracts progressive payment;
- Completion Certificates from Department of Works for all Minor and major contracts;Meeting minutes and resolution from Covid Control Centre on COVID related contract awarding and their contracts; and
- Other supporting documents relevant to that claim
The main intent of the Direction is to ensure public funds are used for the purposes allocated for and not for any other purposes especially during the election period. The Ombudsman Commission will always stand for transparency and promote an equal playing field for those running for public office without using public funds to lure and influence voters.
To meet such standards, nominations for elections must be fair, however, concerns have been raised about the sudden increase in projects initiated months before the election and instances of irregularities and inequalities in the release, disbursement, transfer and receipt of public money just before the 2022 National General Election. The Direction by the Commission is to ensure that Leaders do not go on a spending spree months before the elections.
For instance, there is evidence of large sums of public funds transferred from respective Operating Accounts without following established financial procedures and lack of adherence to the National Goals and Directive Principles, the Basic Social Obligations and the Leadership Code. Under the Directions, ALL public funds disbursed, transferred and/or received or the payment of such public monies, cheques or warrants will not be released unless clearance has been sought from the Ombudsman Commission.
This process was first started in the 2002 National General Election and the Ombudsman Commission has saved the Government millions of funds through such directions.
Those affected by this Direction have been advised.
The Ombudsman Commission has been overwhelmed with unprecedented queries, complaints, and information concerning irregularities and inequalities in dealing with discretionary funds.
With the 2022 National General Election imminent the Ombudsman Commission considers this necessary to halt what appear to be widespread and flagrant breaches of financial procedures.
The Ombudsman Commission is also concerned about continuing practice by Members of Parliament withdrawing large amounts of public funds from bank accounts. PNG has a good public financial accounting system to deal with the release of public funds and from their records there is evidence that there may be a crisis on our hands thus firm and decisive action is necessary.
May it be made clear that the Ombudsman Commission is not asserting that all expenditure of public funds is illegitimate; the Direction, started in 2002, has been issued under Section 27(4) of the Constitution. There are provisions for the Ombudsman Commission to give notice in writing that it is appropriate for the release, disbursement, transfer and/or receipt of funds.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman Commission is the last institution that would want to impede economic development particularly in the rural areas, however, the Commission has the grounds to effect such Direction due to the magnitude of payments made in the last few weeks before the Issue of Writs.
Alternatively, if the application of any money complies with normal financial procedures and is the subject of a written approval by the managing agent of the District Development Program grants, then the money can be released upon clearance by the Commission.
The direction will continue to apply until further notice from the Ombudsman Commission.