Papua New Guinea — a country faced with a depressed economy and its public health system on the brink of total collapse due to the covid-19 pandemic sent a 62-member delegation to Europe to attend the COP26 Climate Change conference at a cost of a whooping K5.8 million (NZ$2.03 million).
The Post-Courier was told the initial budget for PNG’s participation in the climate change conference was put at K20 million for 82 people.
However, this was brought down to K5.8 million, but the National Executive Council approved only K3 million and reduced the number of delegates to 62 people.
Prime Minister James Marape stayed in PNG and appointed his Minister for Environment and Conservation, Wera Mori, to head the delegation to Glasgow.
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Mori, when contacted by this newspaper to justify the cost, referred us to the NEC.
Apart from Mori, other MPs on the trip are Oro Governor Gary Juffa, Member for Moresby North West Lohia Boe Samuel, Member for Talasea Francis Maneke, Vice-Minister for Works and Member for Anglimp-South Waghi Joe Kuli, Member for Kairiku-Hiri Peter Isoaimo and Member for Rai Coast Peter Sapia.
The money was spent on airfares, accomondation and allowances and the delegation requested from the Finance Department in total K800,000 for airfares and K620,000 for accommodation for 10 nights.
Furthermore, travel allowances for the special envoy, the six other MPs with their officers was at US$500 to US$600 per day and at today’s exchange rate, this works out to about K2500 to K3000 a day.
Travel allowance rates
For the public servants, the current rate for travel allowance is at US$300 (K1500) per day and accommodation between US$200 – US$250 (K600 – K1250) per day, depending on the rate charged by the hotels they are booked in to stay.
According to our findings, the actual cost of the trip would have been K1.32 million.
The delegates travelled in three groups and the round trip — Port Moresby, Singapore, Doha and Glasgow — and back cost K19,000 on business class for the envoy and the MPs and K12,980 for the others on economy class.
The Post-Courier was told the first 20 travelled on PX 009 on October 23, the next 20 on the 24th and the rest on the 25th.
Attempts to get the full list of the delegation as well as an official response on the exorbitant cost from the Prime Minister’s office and the departments of Finance, and Foreign Affairs and Office of Environment and Climate Change were unsuccessful.
PNG’s Kundu London High Commissioner was also sent questions relating to PNG’s participation and the costs, but this newspaper was advised all media responses must be channelled through the Foreign Affairs Secretary Elias Wohengu.
This is the second international conference on Climate Change PNG has participated in as a country.
‘Corruption at its best’
After the COP15 conference held in Paris, France, in 2015, the then Environment Minister, Sir John Pundari, went public and condemned the conduct of some members of the government delegation to that conference.
In his criticism, Sir John particularly talked about the attendance of members of the delegation, noting that some went missing, others turned up late while others left early for home.
At that time, Sir John said he was very disappointed that even his fellow ministers who were part of the government delegation quickly disappeared.
He said then that “getting airline tickets and allowances to attend international meetings, and to show up for a day or two, then spend the rest of the time in other places was corruption at its best, and must never be encouraged”.
Over the last two weeks, the Post-Courier asked Sir John twice to comment on the COP26 trip but he referred the newspaper to the Prime Minister’s office instead.
By PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.