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Papua New Guinea leadership watchdog Ombudsman Commission has issued directions to stop the release of all development funds in provinces and districts as writs for the National Election are issued.
It takes effect immediately to prevent bribery and inducements during the election period up to the end of September, Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick and Ombudsman Richard Pagen said.
It will be lifted when the new government is formed, according to the Ombudsman Commission.
The announcement comes hours after Governor-General Bob Dadae signed instruments at Government House to declare nominations open for the 2017 National Election.
It is directed at provincial governors, members of Open electorates and state institutions and persons who handle development funds for districts and provinces.
The Bank of PNG Governor and all heads of commercial banks have also been notified.
Dick and Pagen warned that persons who do not comply with this direction will be guilty of misconduct in office and be liable to prosecution before a leadership tribunal.
“The Ombudsman Commission was also mindful of election-related laws under the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections, especially section 208 relating to bribery and inducements during the campaign period,” Dick said.
The Ombudsman Commission has formed a working committee comprising Department of Rural Development and Implementation and the Department of Finance that will work with it to ensure that requests are cleared after due compliance with the applicable laws, guidelines and financial instructions.
Dick said the ongoing projects would continue and that the remaining district and provincial services improvement programs funds, if released, should be parked in the right trust account and not elsewhere but would be strictly monitored.
“It has been an ongoing public concern that the period up to and inclusive of the national election to the parliament serious concerns arise regarding the release; disbursement, transfer and receipt of public money purporting to be in the form of electoral (services improvement programme) and constitutional grants (district and provincial support grants) funds and various development funds under Provincial Support Grants and District Support Grants,” he said.
“The Ombudsman Commission is concerned that the distribution of substantial public funds to the district treasuries and the provincial treasuries in such a time when the 2017 national election is commencing, there is insufficient time for the funds to be properly applied to development purposes as intended and therefore, these substantial public funds may be misapplied or misused contrary to law and the relevant guidelines.
“Under the directions, the concerned funds will not be released unless clearance has been sought from the Ombudsman Commission for the release, disbursement, transfer and/or receipt or the payment of such public monies, cheques or warrants,” he said.
The Ombudsman is concerned that some districts may have transferred funds from development accounts to operating accounts to avoid this direction, Dick said, adding that this was contrary to the operating laws and guidelines, and those provinces and/or districts in this situation should immediately transfer funds back to the development accounts.
“Whatever clearance the Ombudsman Commission gives for the use of the funds to a sitting member of parliament, should in no way be construed as indemnifying him or her from observing election laws and any precedent National or Supreme Court Decisions,” he said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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