PM responds to APEC cost query

K300 million was budgeted in 2018 for APEC, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Parliament yesterday.

He was asked by Moresby North-West MP, Sir Mekere Morauta, to clarify the extravagant spending and huge cost of hosting APEC last November, which the Opposition claimed was about K5 billion.

In response, the PM said: “How in the world would we be spending K5 billion when our own annual budget is around K11 or K12 billion?

“He’s just ridiculous, Mr Speaker. Ridiculous. Very unbecoming of leaders to just suggest and make up stories,” said O’Neill amidst loud protests from the Opposition.

“Mr Speaker, I will assure you that I will get the Minister for APEC to table a final report. In fact, Mr Speaker, we are waiting for Ombudsman to give the clearance so that we can publicly tender the vehicles and some of the assets that were purchased for this particular event.

“Once that is done, I will table a report to this honourable house, including a very detailed financial statement, for the good member for Moresby North-West to pursue and satisfy himself.”

PNG’s cost of hosting APEC has been debated far and wide, from parliament to concerned taxpayers.

The most vocal were former PM Sir Mekere and Shadow Finance Minister, Ian Ling-Stuckey, who continuously called on the government to come clean on the total cost of APEC spending.

Sir Mekere recently said: “Public money is not his to do with as he pleases, wasting it on luxury cars and private parties for his cronies. People have a right to know how their money is spent, and that right is backed by the law.

“According to the Public Finances (Management) Act, Section 47K, the APEC Authority must be audited by the Auditor-General. But there is no record of any audit.”

Carmella Gware