Source: The National, Friday, February 1, 2013
BOGUS farmers swindled up to K300 million from the National Agriculture Development Plan fund from 2009 to 2011, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has revealed.
And he has directed the Task Force Sweep team to identify these so-called “paper farmers of Waigani” and bring them to justice.
They had been reportedly working in collusion with some officers in the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, some of whom have already been arrested.
“I think it’s well over K300 million. It was budgeted for and spent on so-called farmer assistance,” he said.
“The matter is now being investigated by Task Force Sweep. I’m sure that you know as a result of that, some arrests have been made in national planning, which managed the programme.
“Of course, I can’t pre-empt the investigation and what’s going to be the outcome of the investigations, but we are encouraging Task Force Sweep to carry that out in a timely and orderly manner as we all expect,” the prime minister said.
“We are hoping to get to the bottom of some of these thefts that took place in this very important programme.”
As a result of the “paper farmers” scandal, the NADP was done away with in 2011, with the K100 million annual allocations being diverted to the National Development Bank from last year.
“This year, as in last year when we took over, we decided to shift the focus,” O’Neill said.
“Rather than giving money to paper farmers, we decided to put it through the agriculture bank (NDB), so that Papua New Guineans can have an opportunity with genuine proposals.”
O’Neill is also determined to see a clean-up of the Agriculture and Livestock department following a reported overspending of K40 million last year. It is believed to have culminated in the suspension of acting secretary Dr Vele Ila’ava last week.
The NADP fund - K100 million each year - was meant for the genuine hardworking farmers who needed assistance. But the funds were intercepted by the “paper farmers” with no proper accountability and much of it going to dubious projects and individuals, he said.
O’Neill was chief guest at a Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast at the Royal Papua Yacht Club yesterday.
O’Neill said he was also “very disappointed” at the way the DAL was being managed.
“I have told two ministers - minister for public service (Sir Puka Temu) and minister for agriculture (Tommy Tomscoll) - to sit down and get on top of this issue about budget overruns, which has been costing DAL close to K40 million.
“We can’t afford to allow departmental heads and their staff to run around spending money that has not been approved by parliament.
“We are saying to both ministers to get on top of this, get the management right, and get the culprits who overspent to account for what they have done.”