| Transparency International PNG
PORT MORESBY – On Tuesday, as Papua New Guinea’s parliament reconvened on Tuesday following a six-month break, Transparency International PNG took the opportunity to highlight multiple failures in accountability by government agencies.
Transparency’s has made public an ‘Accountability Scorecard’ that reveals that the majority of public bodies in PNG had not submitted annual financial statements required by law under the Public Finance Act, with many not reporting for multiple years.
With the 10th five-year parliamentary term approaching its end, Transparency is calling on members of parliament and the Finance Department to support the Auditor General’s Office in ensuring that audit reports are submitted and tabled in parliament to improve accountability in spending public funds.
The ‘Accountability Scorecard’ uses the most recent information reported to the Auditor General to show which public bodies and statutory authorities have been accountable and which have not.
It is shocking that only seven of 65 agencies demonstrated some level of accountability. Since 2016, 58 had (90%) had failed to report how they spent billions of kina in public funds provided to them in the annual budget.
This trend reflects a serious breakdown in financial management and represents a direct violation of the law.
“The Finance Minister and the Auditor General’s Office have articulated a greater appetite for more accountability in the use of public funds,” said Transparency PNG chair, Peter Aitsi.
“While such efforts should be commended, the people of PNG expect more from our government and parliament.
“These are the ultimate mechanism responsible for the oversight of how public funds are spent.”
Mr Aitsi called on public bodies and statutory authorities to check their Scorecard and work with the Finance Department and Auditor General’s Office to ensure the provision of timely, accessible, and accurate public audit reports.
“As PNG prepares for elections in 2022, the government must ensure our public accounts are in order and made available to the public,” he said.
“This is critical if we are serious about keeping our officials accountable in their performance and responsibilities.”
Mr Aitsi said that, to further ensure accountability in the management of public finances, members of parliament must ensure robust debate and effective scrutiny by parliamentary committees.
He said parliament must also maintain a calendar for Parliamentary sessions to ensure reports are tabled in a timely manner.
“The Auditor General’s office must be provided with adequate budgetary support to carry out its constitutional role.
“All executives of government departments, agencies and state-owned enterprises must be required to provide timely reports in parliament and made available online so the information is accessible to the people of Papua New Guinea,” he said.
Mr Aitsi said that at PNG’s first National Integrity Summit last May, Transparency published a European Union-funded report that revealed a significant ‘integrity gap’ between the law and agency practice.
Guaranteeing accountability through parliament will help bridge that gap, he said.