Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The 'Sepikulture:' A budget in review


A MASSIVE money plan totalling K100,825,100 was proclaimed and adopted by the East Sepik Provincial Assembly on Tuesday, February 8, 2009. It was East Sepik's biggest provincial budget ever since 1978 when the province was first incepted.

In addition, contestable financial resources valued at K130,964,280 were also available outside of the 2009 East Sepik budget. It cannot be established whether East Sepik was able to access any of these funds to date.

Contained in the money plan but with separate funding were multi million kina Investment and development projects including: i) Investment projects: Sepik sago, Sepik river basin development, Cosmo biomass fuel, Frieda mine, Shrimp project, Basei oil palm, and Turubu oil palm (work started). ii) Development projects: Wewak airport upgrade, K120 million. Work completed and commissioned, K30 million Passam to Balbal (Angoram) road. Work started, K225 million Hawain to Salamin road. Worked started, K10 million Wewak town road upgrading. Work is underway, K31 million new Wewak market and Fish project. Work completed and ready for commissioning, K7.7 million Wewak sport stadium. Work completed and commissioned, K10 million Marienberg Community College. Worked started but slow. These are seven of the 21 budgeted development projects under the 2009 ESP provincial budget.

Ironically, more than a billion kina worth of new projects are currently under way in East Sepik.
It is 13 months since the 2009 budget and no words about a 2010 provincial budget as yet. It's now April. The wait sparks anxiety as well as perplexity - is the bureaucracy performing its task - budget formulation - and if so, why so late?

An explanation is unilateral and subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of our 'celestial light' and Provincial Administrator, Samson Torovi. He had until recently acquired permanency on his job since his acting appointment in April, 2007.       

Governor and Provincial Finance and Planning Chairman, Peter Wararu Warinaka could not be reached for comments however, the instinctual guess is that any governor is annoyed when his provincial budget is not ready on time.

Nonetheless, on the grassroots level, there exist a common concern; both men are inaccessible at most times. If they are, only certain individuals or groups gain access. Whatever 'appointment' may derive its name from dictionaries, it certainly doesn't find a meaning in high offices here in Wewak. The ripple effect spills on.

Absenteeism at the lower strata is dominant to the extent that public servants are unavailable when needed. It is even annoying and frustrating for a villager who spent money and time travelling only public servants absent from offices. Ask any such citizen to grasp the level of discontentment or condemnation.  

Last year's provincial budget gave the biggest slice to public servant's salaries which stands at K38,762,200 or 38 per cent of total provincial expenditure budget. The citizenry therefore, demand nothing less than high quality performance or simply 'be present' by public servants. On the national front, public service continue to burn over K2 billion on salary bills alone during the same period, making PNG public service a gigantic public coffer milker.  

At one instance last year, Wararu went on the media urging Torovi and his two deputies to instil "control" over use of public funds.

This didn't go down well as it only sparked anger by those who authorise and execute payments under laws of public finance.

As a result, many claims by service providers have not been processed to date.
At least one of the senior public servants aired his view saying that the Governor must not blame them for executing payments as they were only acting from stiff pressure by politicians who wanted claims for their voters and cronies paid.    

When payments made, someone "inside" would expect a percentage or commission and sadly, this has been the norm.

Governor Wararu described the 2009 appropriation bill as that of "sustenance and maintenance" basically aimed at the provincial headquarters whilst complimenting and supplementing the District Service Improvement Program (DSIP) which would see some K26 million directly flushing into the six districts and 26 local level governments under its "Development Grants" component.

The budget comprised 92 per cent (K92,851,700) from National Government grants while 8 per cent from internal revenue (K7,973,400).

Governor Wararu admitted that there was need to improve in the area of internal revenue and challenge all stakeholders to work together, be honest, transparent and accountable at all times to effect change.

Recurrent costs ate the biggest slice of 54 per cent (K54,401,700) while Development component receives 38 per cent (K38,450,000) leaving K7,973,400 or 8 per cent comes from a more realistic internal revenue forecast compare to previous years.

In his budget speech, Wararu said in part: "Honourable Members, these are the very thrust and focuses of the East Sepik Provincial Government where we have adopted the National Government's Medium Term Development Strategy or MTDS and the District Services Improvement Program or DSIP in our provincial budgets since 2007.

"Our 2009 East Sepik provincial budget is sustenance and maintenance budget basically aimed at improving capacities of deliveries at the provincial headquarters whilst complimenting and supplementing the District Services Improvement Program into our districts and local level governments.

"Furthermore our provincial budget is based on our eight main development goals targeting improvement in the quality of life for the individual East Sepik person, his or her family unit, the community he or her abides in and collectively contributing towards the development of our province and country as a whole".

These being the development goals:
1. PEOPLE  EMPOWERMENT, WELL  BEING AND PARTICIPATION; "Sepikulture" the Sepik way, improve economic and social well being, healthy population and work force, HIV/AIDS, Education, gender equality, rights education
2. COMMUNITY CENTERED DEVLOPMENT; Strengthening family units, strengthening of structured communities (village, wards, etc.), community based plans and programs, water, shelter, law & justice
3. SAFE, AFFORDABLE ACCESSIBILITY; Transport and markets, Communication and economic participation
4. SUSTAINABLE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICES; Forestry, fisheries, mining, wildlife, ecotourism, farming, bio-fuel, mobilise land and labour.
5. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; Information accessibility, narrowing knowledge gap.
6. AFFORDABLE AND CONVENIENT ENERGY SUPPLY; Supply of electricity for all communities, Pursue and venture into renewable and alternate power sources, Bio fuel.
7. MOBILIZATION OF FACTORS OF PRODUCTION; Incorporated land groups, growers association, up skilling our workforce, appropriate technology training, collective capital and savings culture, micro credits and financing schemes, facilitate foreign capital investments.
8. GOVERNANCE AND ADMINISTRATION; Good governance, improved accountability, efficiency and transparency, administration work force, education, training, productivity and cost effectiveness.

These have been my observations against the activities of the 2009 budget aspirations over the past 12 months. For the purpose of this exercise, let's rank performance on a score between 1 and 5: 1 being 'very poor', 2 'poor', 3 'fair', 4 'satisfactory' and 5 'excellent'. These are the scores by East Sepik then: Goal 1: 2; Goal 2: 1; Goal 3: 3; Goal 4: 3; Goal 5: 1; Goal 6: 3; Goal 7: 4; and Goal 8: 1. 

Average score stood at 2.25 or 12.5 per cent. Overall 2009 budgetary performance stands at 45 per cent meaning we achieved 45 per cent of our 2009 budgetary aspirations. Yes, there were a variety of reasons and premises that determined such an outcome and also notwithstanding the fact that my observation and methodology used remained unauthenticated.

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