Social Concern – Notes from the News (February 2011)
Social Concerns Notes – February 2011
Post Courier 4 Feb: Medical supplies held up
By ROSALYN EVARA
THREE children are dead and many health centres adversely affected, some even closed, due to the prolonged closure of the Area Medical Store in Madang.
Amid this scenario health authorities are still awaiting funds to be released from the provincial government to hire vehicles to move medicines to the temporary store at PNG Maritime College.
Already calls have been made by concerned health workers and members of the public to authorities to urgently get the AMS up and running so that normalcy to services can be restored.
The AMS was closed several weeks ago by health inspectors with the town council after finding the building to be unsafe for human habitation.
Provincial authorities had, a fortnight ago, stated that all supplies would be moved to a temporary storage area while work started on a new building.
Acting director Paul Mabong confirmed the supplies were still in the run-down building at Modilon General Hospital grounds.
Mr Mabong said they they were waiting for funds from the provincial government to hire vehicles to transport the supplies.
Reporters were told that several deaths had been reported at Mugil Health Centre which is situated along the north coast.
The officer in charge of the health centre Sr Prisca Sual when contacted confirmed the deaths. She said three children were all under five. She said their deaths could be partly attributed to the closure of the AMS as it had resulted in them running out of all the basic drugs.
Sr Sual said to restock the clinic it would cost close to K11,000 just for the basics but that this was money the clinic did not have. She said despite this the clinic is still open and on standby.
“All the serious cases, we are referring to Modilon General Hospital while the minor ones are given precriptions to buy medicine from chemists in town.”
PNG Buying into mining operations
A 30% stake for the people of PNG in any new mining venture is not unusual or unreasonable. Indeed it is the very minimum we should be demanding. It is our gold, copper and nickel that is being mined after all and we deserve to see some of the profits boosting the public purse and being used for schools and health services etc.
A 30% stake is exactly what the government of Mekere Morauta negotiated with Highlands Pacific for the Ramu nickel mine in 2000.
But when the government of Michael Somare renegotiated the Ramu contract with the Chinese state-owned company MCC in 2006 it gave away that 30% stake – and gave the mine company a whole suite of other tax breaks on top.
Is the government about to sell us out to Nautilus Minerals just as it did with MCC?
Well, the answer to that question is yes, the government has sold out – just as it did with MCC and the Ramu nickel mine.
Instead of insisting the State be given a 30% stake in the mine – it is the State after all which is contributing the gold and copper that the mine will extract – the government has agreed that if it is to have a stake in the mine it will have to pay for it. Which means the government will have to give Nautilus US$27 million of tax payers money by February 15 and a further US$100 or more over the next three years as the mine is developed.
The National 4 Feb: ‘Cash royalties breed laziness’
DIRECTOR of Mamusi Advisory and Consultative Group (MACG) Benedict Lalepumanu has called on the government to reconsider laws on royalties, levies and grants payments to landowners because it is developing a handout culture.
Lalepumanu said spin-off benefits emanating from national projects should not be “in the form of straight cash handouts” as it would make landowners lazy to till the land thereby losing their “resourcefulness”.
“I think cash payments such as royalties, levies and business development grants, though good, can develop a type of handout mentality,” he said.
Lalepumanu, a principal landowner of the Mamusi constituency of Pomio, East New Britain, said that instead of giving money to the people in the form of grants and royalties, it should be invested in long-term projects such as schools, clinics, water, sanitation and roads.
“Money should also be invested in human resource development,” he said, adding that when gold, timber, gas or oil run out people would still push the province on.
Post Courier 4 February: K10m probe clears Baki
POLICE Department paid a helicopter company K5 million without following proper tendering process, according to an internal investigation report released to the Post-Courier yesterday.
This was part of the K10 million approved by Cabinet and paid by Finance Department to the police force to beef up security at the PNG LNG project areas. Police Commissioner Gari Baki was subsequently suspended because of the way the money was spent.
However, a separate inquiry ordered by Cabinet to investigate the K10m expenditure is understood to have cleared Mr Baki of any wrongdoing and recommended that further investigations be done to find out how the other K5 million was spent.
The Cabinet-ordered inquiry was carried out by Personnel Management Secretary John Kali, Public Employees Association President Michael Malabag, private businessman Alan Bird and former acting judge and constitutional lawyer Nemo Yalo.
The inquiry report was completed in four weeks and delivered to Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc on January 4 and tabled in Cabinet when Sam Abal was Acting Prime Minister. Mr Baki remains suspended.
Mr Baki’s term as police commissioner expired on January 4. Sources said last night Mr Baki had not been granted his natural justice if the inquiry cleared his name. Meanwhile, the police department’s internal audit section compiled a report detailing alleged misuse of funds from a trust account which held the K10 million.
http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/ accessed 7 Feb
A series of confidential reports from international consultancy firm Deloitte are highly critical of financial management within the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).
In the first report, a review of ‘Finance Function Effectiveness‘, dated June 2008, Deloitte says that DEC’s Finance Branch complies with ‘almost none’ of the procedural requirements of the Public Finance Management Act or the Financial Management Manual and provides ‘no useful’ information to managers on spending against budget and work plans.
Review of expenditure for the first half of 2008 found 45% of total expenditure was not actually spent on conservation activities but on top management and administration, the Secretary and Ministerial services.
Deloitte found none of the Finance Branch staff had an accounting qualification and most had only completed Year 10 or 11 schooling. There was no manager or accountant employed in the Finance Branch.
Of 31 cash advance transactions tested in only 4 cases had there been any acquittal (a 13% compliance rate) and in one of those the amount due for reimbursement to DEC had not been settled.
No documentation for Overseas Travel Advances could be found. In the first six months of 2008 these advances totaled K158,000. This is described as a ‘major failing in record keeping and leaves DEC unable to ascertain whether misappropriation has occurred’.
Asset registers were woefully outdated, the oldest had not been updated for 13 years and the most recent for 8 years.
Only 2 of 22 tested transactions contained all the required authorization signatures (a 9% compliance rate).
Security bonds paid to a hire car company had not been refunded to DEC and the extent of the losses not monitored.
DEC Secretary, Wari Iamo, is no stranger to allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption. Ten years ago it was revealed that what was then the Office of Environment & Conservation (OEC), spent over K 150,000 at the Maggi seafood restaurant within a period of 9 months. It is believed that the receipts were used for ‘double-dipping’ in which the restaurant was really paid less than the invoiced amount, with the balance being returned to OEC staff. This was exposed in a television documentary, and also in local newspapers but when his Minister tried to initiate disciplinary proceeding against Iamo, the Minister was sacked by the Prime Minister, Michael Somare.
Post Courier 7 Feb: K112m misused
A total of K112 million was paid out by the Department of Planning and Monitoring under political directions to shore up Government support in the face of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.
This was revealed in a letter written by the departmental head Mr Joe Lelang to his Minister Mr Paul Tiensten on December 6, 2010 wherein he said political directions were issued to his department to “honour certain government commitments … to shore up coalition numbers in view of the imminent vote of no confidence that was expected in the November session of Parliament.”
“The department was advised to find the money and make necessary payments irrespective of its source (where the money was coming from)”, wrote Lelang.
Post-Courier understands that Mr Lelang wrote to Mr Tiensten to explain the payments upon learning that Finance and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neil and other senior Ministers in Government were pushing for his suspension.
“On 12th August, 2010, the department was directed by Minister for Public Service and Acting Minister for Finance and Treasury Hon. Peter O’Neill at the Havana Club (in the presence of yourself and Hon. Patrick Pruaitch) to release K51 million under the Development Budget … ,” he told Mr Tiensten.
Mr Lelang said upon receiving the direction, the department released K51m worth of cheques as follows:
* Kokoda High School K3.0 million (Sohe District Treasury)
* Kokoda Roads K3.0 million (Sohe District Treasury)
* Rai Coast Bridge K3 million (Rai Coast District Treasury)
* Agro Estate Development Project K10.9 million (Teariki Holdings Limited)
* Transgogol High School K3 million (Madang District Treasury)
* Growth Centre K2 million Ialibu-Pangia (Ialibu-Pangia District Treasury)
* East New Britain Provincial Town Roads K5 million (ENB Provincial Treasury)
* Cocoa Pod Borer Aitape K6 million (Trust Account)
* Kimbe Town Roads K5 million (WNB Provincial Treasury)
* Vanimo Police K2 million (Vanimo District Treasury)
* Chuave Hospital Refurbishment K2 million (Chuave District Treasury)
* Nigerum Bridge North Fly K3 million (North Fly District Treasury)
* Palmalmal High School Upgrading K4 million (Pomio District Treasury)
“In addition, upon direction from yourself and Minister Arthur Somare, K33 million was raised for presentation by the Prime Minister at the inauguration of Hela Province in the Southern Highlands,” wrote Lelang.
He said that K33m was divided as – K10m for Tari power supply and K23m for Hela infrastructure development.
“Again from political directions,” wrote Lelang, “a total of K28m was paid to 14 provincial governors when in fact under the PSIP for 2010 budget, governors are only entitled to K1m. There were excessive payments of K14m in this instance,” wrote Lelang.
“Therefore, a total of K98m was dished out on unbudgeted projects following directions by Minister for Finance and Treasury and Prime Minister’s office,” he said. Funds were drawn from District Services improvement Program, Infrastructure Development Grants and Business Development Grants.
The no-confidence motion was never tabled in the Parliament in November last year following the withdrawal of four MPs who had originally signed the motion. The motion was to have been tabled again during the January session for the election of Governor-General but the Opposition was unable to find the Acting Speaker Francis Marus and hand-deliver the notice of motion as required by standing orders of Parliament.
FINANCE and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neill has brushed aside claims by National Planning secretary Joseph Lelang that a total of K112 million was paid out to shore up government support in the face of a vote of no-confidence against the Somare government.
He described the comments as “misleading and irresponsible”
The National 8 Feb
THE member for Moresby Northeast Andrew Mald has called on the national government and the National Capital District Commission to critically look into the liquor business after the rise in alcohol-related deaths in the city.
A concerned Mald said after learning of the shooting to death of Akuila Emil, a former Kumul player from New Ireland, who was alleged to have been killed by a highly- educated national outside a hotel after his (Emil’s) car bumped into the alleged killer’s vehicle.
Mald said such alcohol-related incident was not the first of its kind as many incidences and similar killings in the city in recent times had been alcohol-related.
He said tougher laws were needed to control alcohol trading and consumption to control the escalating deaths and crimes that were directly related to the abuse of alcohol.
He said trading hours at night clubs should be regulated and also all liquor trading in settlement and residential areas should be shut down and tougher penalties should be imposed on offenders.
He said all night clubs should sell liquor until midnight and any extension should result in the licences be terminated while all beer outlets in settlements and residential areas should be banned.
He added that all drivers caught under the influence of alcohol must have the licences immediately suspended.
He said tough measures were necessary because many prominent and well-educated people who were the agents of the nation’s development were dying or killed as a result of prolonged drinking and drunken behaviour in the society.
“Residents in Port Moresby were using and consuming alcohol as if it is just fun and in many of these situations the drinkers do not exercise moderation.
“They drink like there is no tomorrow,” he said.
Mald said business was good for those that traded alcohol but the cost to the country was far greater.
He added that besides loss of life, the cost to the economy, the cost of medical treatment, police investigation, and compensation demands and payments were excessive and serious.
“The NCDC must take advice seriously. As a commissioner, I will push for greater control and I also ask the government to also take immediate steps,” he said.
Mald has raised the concern on on the floor of parliament on several occasions but all that had fallen on deaf ears.
http://www.pngblogs.com/ accessed 9 Feb
West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea have been terrorised and arrested by police, West Papua Media Alerts said on January 28. They were allegedly arrested on behalf of the Indonesian military and local logging interests.
Police and soldiers rounded up 79 refugees living in camps around Vanimo, on PNG’s north coast near the border with West Papua, in the early hours of January 23.
The soldiers burned down at least 30 refugee houses, destroyed crops and food, and assaulted people, WPMA said. Other refugees have reportedly fled to the jungle.
Acting deputy police commissioner Fred Yakasa said anyone found not to be a PNG citizen would be considered an activist with the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and sent to the refugee camp at East Awin, Radio New Zealand International said on January 26.
About 12,000 West Papuan refugees live in PNG, WPMA said. They escaped from Indonesia’s repressive rule.
The OPM has struggled against Indonesian occupation for decades. Its armed wing, the National Liberation Army (TPN), has engaged in a low-level guerrilla war.
However, WPMA said the vast majority of those arrested are not believed to be OPM members.
The mass arrest of refugees is unprecedented, given PNG’s history of relatively tolerant behaviour towards West Papuans.
Refugees in PNG are usually allowed to work, but denied other rights as citizens, such as education and permanent housing. Many others cross the border regularly as it divides their traditional tribal lands, RNZI said on January 27.
The crackdown comes after the OPM signed an agreement with the PNG government in December to allow training in non-violent civil resistance techniques in the area, WPMA said.
However, the PNG government has used alleged activity by the TPN as an excuse for the arrests.
Spokesperson for the Blakwara refugee community Yalli Jikwa told WPMA: “The accusation that these villages were National Liberation Army training bases is completely false. These villages attacked have no connection at all to the TPN, and [PNG prime minister Sir Michael] Somare knows it.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it received official assurance that the refugees will not be forced to return to West Papua, RNZI said.
However, UNHCR’s Walpurga Englebrecht said it is not possible to be classed as both an OPM activist and a refugee, leaving their status in limbo.
The action by PNG authorities was part of “Operation Sunset Merona”, allegedly to protect local businesses by stopping the illegal shipment of goods into PNG by the Indonesian military.
It was also said to be aimed at stopping illegal workers employed by foreign logging companies operating at the border.
In January, a number of logging workers and Indonesian military personnel were arrested in raids on remote border camps and villages by PNG forces, WPMA said.
However, the switch to targeting refugees has led many to believe the operation is motivated by logging interests run by PNG elites and the Indonesian military.
It also follows the general pattern of harassment and intimidation of West Papuans carried out by Indonesia.
Most of the targeted refugee camps are in areas valuable for logging. The PNG government and business community also have a history of working closely with Indonesian interests to the detriment of ordinary people and the environment.
Secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have implicated the Indonesian military in illegal logging operations on both sides of the border. SMH.com.au said on December 23: “The Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to, chiefly to protect and facilitate TNI’s interests in illegal logging operations.”
The action has angered many locals, who sympathise with fellow Papuans forced to live under brutal Indonesian rule.
Vanimo-based police units and army battalion refused to take part in the operation, which was run by forces from Port Moresby. WPMA said they cited resentment at working for Indonesian interests.
Governor of Port Moresby and long-time human rights activist Powes Parkop condemned the border operation in an open letter to Somare.
He called for the end of the operations, “as it is becoming obvious that our government and therefore police are being used by the Indonesian government to harass and suppress suspected West Papua activist campaigning for Independence of West Papua”. “This is morally and legally wrong.”
TN 9 Feb, letters: Bishop Reichart, SHP’s champ
BISHOP Stephen Reichart of Mendi diocese, who was recently promoted as the archbishop of Madang, was a faithful servant for the people of Southern Highlands.
He was the answer to the helpless voices of the disadvantaged in the nine districts where the government had neglected them for the past four decades.
He was a courageous and committed man who could fearlessly travel into fighting zones and initiate peace among warring tribes where no community leader or MPs dared to go.
Many leaders fled to Moresby or overseas when a major tribal fight broke out in Mendi town.
Business houses were destroyed and government services came to a halt but the bishop remained in the province through it all.
The fight, which claimed some 70 lives, came to an end when the bishop finally brokered a peace deal and brought the province back to normalcy.
People often urged the bishop to contest for the governor’s seat but he refused.
Bishop Reichart initiated many infrastructure developments and services like health, education, roads and other socio-economic development projects.
One of his most significant initiatives was to sponsor tertiary students struggling to meet all their fee requirements.
He relieved many parents during such crucial times and, by doing so, he has touched the hearts of all Southern Highlanders.
I cannot think of an appropriate word to describe Bishop Reichart’s noble work in Southern Highlands.
He was more than a priest or bishop.
I would say he was a champion of all trades.
I am happy to be a product of one of the schools he established in the province.
Thank you, Bishop Reichart.
May God reward you in heaven.
Michael Drake Kapu
Post Courier 10 Feb: Kimbe hospital out of drugs
By Noel Pascoe
KIMBE Hospital in one of the nation’s prime growth areas has run out of essential, life-saving drugs and can’t get an answer to its dilemma.
West New Britain Governor Peter Humphries has flown to Port Moresby to try to unravel the medicine supply problem and says he is still waiting for answers from the Health Department.
Meanwhile, the hospital which caters to the capital of the nation’s oil palm industry has not had any resupplies of oxygen or halopaine, the substance used for anaesthetics, since November.
It has run out of the drugs to treat tuberculosis, a major worry for this deadly disease as successful treatment requires continued regular doses, without interruption.
“I’m appalled that the situation has reached this stage,’’ Mr Humphries said this week.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a similar situation at other hospitals in Papua New Guinea. I’d like to see an inquiry into the purchasing and supplying of drugs.’’
Mr Humphries said the chief executive of the hospital Dr Victor Golpak had expressed his fears for the situation to him as governor, saying it was “a grave situation’’…..
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/world/world/general/uphill-battle-for-young-lives/2074226.aspx?storypage=1 accessed 14 Feb
Uphill battle for young lives
12 Feb, 2011
…. For every thousand babies born, 70 die before their fifth birthday. Five women die in childbirth daily but the figures vary. The official figure from the United Nations is 253 per 100,000 live births but it is as high as 733 in some areas. Consider Australia’s maternal mortality rate: 8.4 per 100,000 live births, meaning PNG’s rate is about 30 times that.
The persistently high maternal mortality rate arises from a complex web of factors: male ignorance and dominance; lack of health infrastructure in remote villages and provinces; high rates of HIV and AIDS and domestic violence; and a shortage of trained midwives.
This uphill battle to save the mothers and babies is mainly left to national organisations, dedicated voluntary bodies and philanthropists, international aid bodies such as AusAID, and churches.
Along with a lack of infrastructure and basic health services, one of the greatest impediments to saving maternal lives in PNG, particularly in rural communities, is the dearth of trained midwives.
“There is a serious, really serious lack of midwives,” Westaway says. “There’ve been a lot of words from the [PNG] government, a lot of moral support to take action, but … ” she trails off. …
Post Courier 16 Feb: K4 billion lost to fraud yearly
By TODAGIA KELOLA
THE country loses about 50 per cent of its Government budget directly to fraud.
That’s about K4 billion a year and on top of that Papua New Guinea fails to collect more than half of the taxation revenue that is due to it.
That’s from acting Deputy Police Commissioner Fred Yakasa yesterday when officially opening a workshop on Proceeds of Crime Act. …