MICHIGAN, USA - The District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) and Provincial Services Improvement Program (PSIP) are both valued highly by members of parliament in Papua New Guinea because they allow MPs considerable discretion in how the money is used.
For the last several years I’ve been paying particular attention to this DSIP and PSIP spending.
While DSIP and PSIP have great potential for development at the same time both programs can suck MPs into corruption.
In a good year, every one of the 111 members, including governors, receive K10 million from the government with the funds intended for development purposes in their respective districts or provinces.
Some of the MP’s have used the funds well, building roads and bridges, establishing new primary and secondary schools, purchasing cell phone towers to facilitate communication, that sort of thing.
Other MP’s travel to Cairns or Brisbane and decide to use between one and five million kina to purchase a house or unit down under.
As long as the national government held the MPs accountable, the funds were used well But when the cat’s away, the mice will play.
In the 17 August 2017 issue of the Post-Courier, Gorethy Kenneth wrote a stunning article which can be summarised this way: In 2013 95 MPs acquitted their DSIP/PSIP funds; in 2014 the number dramatically dropped to 50; in 2015 another steep decline to only 30. And it gets worse: in 2016 a mere 11 MPs accounted for how they spent their K10 million.
That’s one billion kina unaccounted for.
The 31 March 2017 Post-Courier stated that in 2016 the non-reporting MPs failed to acquit K1.1 billion. And what was the consequence?
Well, prime minister Peter O’Neill did precisely nothing.
On 18 August 2017, Gorethy Kenneth wrote that, of those few who did submit acquittals, three were women (the only three women in parliament at the time; there are now none).
Yes, PNG’s women MPs, Julie Soso, Delilah Gore and Loujaya Kouza, turned in their acquittals in a timely way for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
By the 19 July 2018 issue of the Post-Courier, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference called on MPs to do away with DSIP and PSIP funding.
So here’s some unsolicited advice for prime minister James Marape. Inform all MPs that by 31 January 2020 each of them must give full accounting of how they spent their DSIP/PSIP funds in 2019.
If they fail to do so, they should receive only K5 million in 2020. That will make them sit up and take notice.
Papua New Guinean citizens have a right to know how public money is spent – and that is it spent for the public good.