Opposition calls for probe into disaster funds

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch has called on the Government to come clear with the usage of funds in the Disaster Trust Account set up on March 1, with interim funding of K150 million for earthquake restoration.

He claimed that there has been no transparency on the restoration work carried out by the Controller of National Disaster state-of-emergency.

Pruaitch, in a statement, accused the Government for turning a blind eye to the suffering of tens of thousands of Papua New Guineans in the badly hit provinces of Southern Highlands, Hela, Western and Gulf.

He said conflicting information has been provided on funding for earthquake impacted provinces by the Department of Treasury and Dr Bill Hamblin, Controller of National Disaster state-of-emergency.

He added that according to the 2018 Mid-Year Economic and Financial Outlook (MYEFO) released by the Department of Treasury, no money was deposited in the Earthquake Disaster Restoration Trust Account.

“Even though Treasury said no funds had been deposited, Dr Hamblin said he had accessed funds parked in the Earthquake Disaster Restoration Trust Account,” stated Pruaitch.

In view of this conflicting information, the Opposition leader said the Government needs to explain how funds were channeled to Dr Hamblin.

“The question has to be raised whether funds that should have been deposited in a Trust Account were instead placed in a financial instrument over which Treasury has no oversight and which is open to abuse,” Pruaitch said.

“United Nations agencies have noted that in the first four weeks after the February 28 disaster, 80 percent of all relief and restoration work was carried out by Oil Search Ltd.

“Once additional work by ExxonMobil and the UN agencies is included, most observers would surmise that the Earthquake Disaster Restoration Trust Account has done virtually nothing in that period.”

However, in response, Dr Hamblin said: “The Opposition Leader continues to be misinformed.

“I have already advised that over K70 million has been spent out of the Trust Account. Clearly this would not have been possible if there was no money in the account.

“I have previously publicly offered a briefing on the earthquake for the leader but he has not contacted my office. 

“A total of K80 million to date has been deposited into the Trust Account from the Government plus K17.4 million from donors. 

“Full details of activities and costs will be included in a major update to be included in this Friday’s Post-Courier.”ern Highlands Governor William Powi is also calling on the Government to investigate how Dr Hamblin is controlling the disaster funds as there is nothing to show for it on ground.

(Patrick Pruaitch, left, and Dr Bill Hamblin)

Freddy Mou