PNG opposition questions use of East Sepik project funds

1:23 pm on 4 June 2015

Opposition MPs in Papua New Guinea continue to ask questions about how US$18 million meant for an agricultural project in East Sepik was spent.

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament.

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Documents from the Public Governance Accounting System point towards drawdown of the funds for other purposes.

The Rabaul MP Alan Marat says there is little to show on the ground in terms of the project, a Special Economic Zone in the Sepik Plains.

He has called for an investigation.

"I mean, if the government is serious about fighting corruption, it should be taking the lead. But so far it has not been doing that and has been leaving cases like this to be forgotten."

Dr Marat says just this week in parliament another project valued at hundreds of millions of dollars has also been questioned.

He says there is rarely any accountability over the valuing of projects.

"That these funds are being awarded or being approved by government for projects when they're not really worth those amounts. More inflated amounts are being approved simply for the government to have funds ready for the 2017 general elections."

The documents also indicate that the local MP, Trade Minister Richard Maru, directly benefited from the project funds, receiving allowances and costs worth $70,000.

However Mr Maru has denied allegations of misuse.

He says payments of the project funds have been controlled by bureaucracy and public servants, not politicians.

Mr Maru says that so far the funds have been used for the Works Department completing 50 kilometres of roads, PNG Power Ltd establishing 24 kilometres of power lines, and PNG Water being engaged to build a water supply.