The provincial budget of ESP is LLG based. So budgets are done according to each LLG. There is no budget for Wards simply because there is no money to push budgets right down to that level.
But down at LLG level we have an issue of lack of oversight. So a lot of money simply gets stolen. What that means is that the claim is produced, a cheque is raised and the money is spent but the work promised in the claim never gets done.
In 2018 cheques were drawn for amounts ranging from K50-K200,000 for the maintenance of roads in almost all LLGs. We have 29 LLGs. For example, Boiken K100,000 and Turubu K200,000. Which roads got fixed with this money? The Wewak DDA also used DSIP to fix other roads in the district that I am aware of.And it is the same story all across the province.
For Maprik Urban we spent K100,000 to repair a bridge. Which bridge in Maprik Urban got fixed? Angoram district powerhouse maintenance K70,000? Wosera Gawi Emergency Maintenance K200,000. What was that for?
Government House Maintenance Wewak District, Turubu, Wewak Rural, Maprik District, Maprik Wora, Albiges Mamblep, Bumbita Muihan, Yamil Tamawi, Keram, Marienberg, Yuat, Drekikia, Kawanga, the list goes on, each spent K50,000 to fix a government house in that location. From the reports I am getting on the ground from LLG Presidents, 90% of the work never took place.
This is deeply alarming. It means the people’s money, meant for their services is being spent for the benefit of a select few. Your money is being stolen and the people writing and cashing the cheques are all public servants.
This is totally unacceptable. I realize that as elected representatives, we are almost powerless to do anything.
During our meeting last week where we discussed law and order issues with the PPC we agreed to set up our provincial public accounts committee to be backed up by a team of fraud sqaud officers from the police and we will look into all these expenditures with a view to determine what happened to those funds. If we have to prosecute and jail perpetrators then so be it. We can’t keep allowing this to happen.
My analysis is that, because funding for the same thing is given through DSIP and functions grants, the DDA is actually taking the full brunt of paying for the infrastructure while the function grant goes missing because too many people are implementing in the same area. So if a national government project also comes into the same space then the confusion this creates also provides the ideal opportunity for corruption.
As responsible leaders we can’t allow this to continue. We must have better oversight and control mechanisms. But more than that we need more transparency around all these transactions so that our people are made aware of what is going on so that we can get an additional layer of oversight from our own community.
I am of the opinion that we have enough money to do our work. We just have to stop the stealing and allow the money to do the work it was intended to do. And we need help from our constituents to question where the money is going to. We need to improve transparency.
So in 2020, all money for roads and bridges will be implemented by PTB using the free machines donated by the Japanese government. We will no longer engage contractors using these K200,000 road maintenance funds. We need to get value for money on all our LLG roads. We have to stop the stealing.
Once the Auditor General clears our 2018 financial report, I will publish it for every Sepik to peruse and ask questions. This is how we are going to do our government business from now onwards.
By Alan Bird, Governor of East Sepik Province, November 2019