Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PM taken to task over 'slush funds'

PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare has been challenged to present to Parliament documents showing that more than K4 billion, stashed away in various Government trust accounts since 2005, has not been used as “Government slush funds”, The National reports.

He has also been tasked to table in Parliament the details of all disbursements from these accounts as well as table a quarterly report to the Parliament on the operations of the trust accounts with details of all withdrawals and expenditures from them.

Sir Michael was also tasked to give reasons as to why sectoral funds allocated to the Health and Education departments, as well as the law and justice sector programme had been taken back and centralised under the Department of National Planning.

He was put to task by Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta in Parliament yesterday and responded, saying he would furnish the reports to Parliament with the assistance of Finance and Treasury Minister Patrick Pruaitch and National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten.

However, he gave the undertaking only after emphatically denying that the money was being used as “Government slush funds” as perceived by the Opposition and said he would have the documents tabled in Parliament to quell any suspicion, concern or cynicism over the lack of transparency in the allocation and disbursement of funds from trust accounts.

Sir Mekere told Parliament that the money, appropriated through supplementary budgets since 2005 and stashed away in trust accounts, had been removed from the scrutiny of the annual budget process and quarterly budget reviews.

He said as time passed, the public lost sight of the money, Parliament lost control over it and accountability was difficult to establish and enforced.

“The monies became Government slush funds,” Sir Mekere said.


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