11 Jun 2008

Public servants blamed by PNG PM for missing Finance Dept funds

7:40 pm on 11 June 2008

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, says public servants not politicians, are to blame for the disappearance of more than one billion kina from the finance department.

PNG's auditor general last month warned accounting and reporting systems in all government departments had collapsed and more than one billion kina, or around 380 million US dollars, was missing from the public purse.

Sir Michael says there was a warlike atmosphere between the two tiers of government, with top-level bureaucrats taking advantage of their cheque-signing powers.

A recent example was the government's sacking in April of PNG's top bureaucrat, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, a key player in inquiries into missing public funds.

The Prime Minister says that according to the auditor's report, politicians are not signatories to cheques, and misuse of money stems from the way the instruments of governance are signed.

He says the mistake is in the bureaucracy, which he describes as very powerful.