A SIP of Corruption

Post Courier | February 20th 2024

Last year, the Department of Implementation and rural Development expressed the concern at the lack of transparency in the Provincial and District Service Improvement Program.

More popularly known by the acronyms DSIP and PSIP, these multi-dollar tax-payer funded slush funds are intended to bring government services closer to the provinces and districts.

In a decent promotion with good intentions but over the years, its noble vision has been waylaid as the funding had increased from K300 000 in the 1970s to a massive K20 million per Member of Parliament under the James Marape regime in 2023.

In reality, these plans have become nothing more than public money that somehow vanishes without a trail with many projects tinted by abject corruption.

Tenders are awarded and public funds are applied but for the amount of money awarded, the end product does not equate to the amount of money. Many times, there is no work done and projects are never delivered in full or never at all.

The check and balance mechanism in DIRD. It is mandated to   coordinate, supervise, monitor and manage programs and grants under the SIP ensuring their effective integration into the rural areas.

However, the department hardly has the manpower or funding to effectively account for the money given to the districts. The hardworking staff find it difficult and extremely challenging organizing field trips monitor and report on projects.

The lack of accountability on public funds has reached the Ombudsman Commission whose damning report on MPs not providing Acquittals on Public funds is our front-page story today.

Interestingly, the OC report comes as Parliament is sitting at an exciting juncture in PNG politics when a Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) has been introduced against incumbent Prime Minister James Marape by the Opposition.

What is captivating about the VoNC and the OC report is the names on the list of defaulters.

Honorable James Marape, MP for Tari Pori and Honorable Allan Bird, Governor for East Sepik, - the two gladiators in the VoNC leadership contest – are the big names in the OC list of 81 defaulters.

According to the OC, Marape’s Tari Pori electorate has not reported for the use of DSIP funds in 2020, 2021 and 2022 while Bird has not produced a report on the East Sepik’s PSIP funding in the years from 2020,2021 and 2022.

Of the 81 on the list, 15 MPs are from the 22-member Opposition while seven seats are vacant through one death, and the rest through court actions.

Six seats will be re-contested in the by-elections soon.

The rest of the 60 MPs are from Marape’s 84 MP Coalition.

Under DIRD guidelines, the DSIP of K20 million is divided into Education, Health, Law and Justice, Infrastructure, Economic development and Administration components.

The district development administration tenders and administers the funds.

However, cronyism is rampant. Funds are disbursed to wantoks. Money is paid to non-existent companies and much of it is swindled.

In one case cited by the DIRD last year, one district MP reportedly used a picture of a classroom in Port Moresby in its acquittal for education development in his district.

Many health and education projects in the most rural areas are half completed because transportation costs and lack of infrastructure make it extremely difficult to deliver. 

In one Morobe district, a prebuild house and eater tanks were left at a jetty by a contractor.

This is why the Connect PNG highway link up is vital cog in enabling that essential services under PSIP and DSIP reach the rural masses