By JEFFREY ELAPA
MORE than K40 million from the Southern Highlands provincial treasury has been abused within a matter of three months, according to the acting provincial administrator William Powi, The National reports.
He alleged yesterday in Mendi that up to June, a huge sum of money from the provincial treasury was disbursed by the provincial government to shady projects.
He also claimed that a large sum of money was paid out within the first two weeks of this month, a few days before the National Executive Council re-appointed him to the post.
Powi is acting provincial administrator for a period of three months.
Supporters of Powi and the man he was to replace, Lawrence Olkoben, clashed in Mendi on Monday when he arrived to take up the post.
Powi claimed that the attack was orchestrated by Olkoben and his supporters to destroy the treasury records and documents by taking possession of the provincial treasury and the Agiru Centre.
Powi said acting provincial treasurer Kevin Pruno had informed him that K40 million from the provincial treasury had been expended over an alleged period of three months.
Powi said Pruno admitted that for all payments, Governor Anderson Agiru had listed payments detailing who should get how much and directed the officer of the provincial administrator and the provincial treasurer to issue Cash Flow Certificates and stamped what the governor wanted.
He said Pruno further admitted that Agiru had decided who should be paid and how much each person should receive, which was contrary to the Organic Law on the functions of the provincial governors, administrator and treasurers.
But Pruno, when contacted, denied giving the report and said he had never written to any media regarding the K40 million payout during Olkoben's time.
"When Powi asked me, I told him that less than K20 million was disbursed between January and June this year," he said.
He then said K7 million was spent on projects, wages and for administration costs and not K40 million as reported.
Pruno said the payments were made according to the budget of the provincial government and ranged from K300,000 to K400,000 for each project from January to June this year.
He said for example the Nipa and Mendi technical colleges received K700,000 each from the K7 million.
Agiru, when contacted, said he could not comment on an allegation but stated that directions had to be given on where to spend money according to budget.
He said the province had an internal revenue of about K60 million and was still after the Kutubu and Moran royalties in Port Moresby.
"I do not know what money they are referring to, I have no idea," he said.
However, he said generally any money belonging to the province had to be spent on projects as budgeted for.
He declined to comment further on Powi's "baseless" stories.
However, Powi had issued written instructions to Pruno to furnish him a detailed report on the usage of funds, verify and confirm whether the payments were budgeted for and whether they were in compliance with legal processes.
Pruno said the report was not ready and he could give it to the provincial administrator when completed.
However, Powi called on the national government to investigate the abuses which he alleged were "illegal, improper and went against the spirit of good governance".
"Provincial government and provincial governors are policy makers and do not have section 32 functions under the Public Finance Management Act.
"The national government must act immediately," he said.
Powi said the national government should recall Olkoben to Waigani to lay appropriate disciplinary charges against him for disobeying lawful directives and for instigating trouble in Mendi.
The police mobile units 09 and 05 from Tari and Mt Hagen had been dispatched in Mendi to protect state property and allow Powi to take control of the administration.
Police Commissioner Tony Wagambie is understood to be on the ground in Mendi.