Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner David Manning — who is also head of the country’s Covid-19 National Control Centre — has placed United Nations agencies on notice that they must reveal how they have spent virus emergency funding over the past two years.
Manning said Prime Minister James Marap and other Members of Parliament, and independent organisations such as Transparency International, have all called for the release of information on how covid-19 funds have been spent and they have been ignored.
“Unfortunately, these United Nations bodies have refused to provide financial information to the government and people of Papua New Guinea,” he said.
This matter has now come to a head with the Controller writing to the World Bank Acting Country Director in Papua New Guinea, Paul Vallely, on March 29, advising that he would no longer endorse any further increase in allocation of funds, or disbursements, under the PNG Covid-19 Emergency Response Project.
“I have repeatedly requested both directly and through auditors, acquittals of previously disbursed funds under this and other similar projects,” the Controller said in his letter to the World Bank on the loan money.
“The recipients of these funds have refused to provide any reasonable account for these monies.
“There is over US$1.3 billion (K4.5 billion) identified on the self-reporting donor tracker as being committed for managing the covid-19 pandemic in PNG.
‘How are UN agency funds used?’
“What our people need to know, and the global community needs to know, is how are these UN agencies using the funds allocated to them.”
Manning advised that the project is to receive no further funds until he is satisfied that previous disbursements have been acquitted.
“Enough is enough, I have called for the past year for this expenditure to be acquitted and they have refused, so now I am demanding compliance with transparency requirements in PNG,” he said.
“With the country going through the height of the pandemic, these agencies were provided with some leniency, but we have heard enough excuses and misleading information.
A substantial part of the funds being spent by these UN organisations had also become a part of national sovereign debt that must be repaid by future generations of the Papua New Guinean people, he said.
“But the terrible irony is that we do not even know what they spent this money on, particularly in areas such as communications and awareness in which they have failed.
“Details that have been revealed on the Covid-19 Donor Tracking Dashboard shows that UNDP, as one example, has facilitated the following funding of their own activities in PNG to an amount of K9 million (US$2.6 million).
“This is one just source of funding that is shrouded in secrecy and there are several others for which we have demanded information but is being ignored by this global body.”
Outraged by wording
Manning said he was outraged by the almost identical wording from UNICEF, WHO and UNDP in response to his requirement for an independent auditor to access their records, in which these agencies essentially said they would ignore the request.
In documents seen by the Post-Courier, UNDP Resident Representative Dirk Wagener and UNICEF PNG Representative Claudes Kamenga wrote to Manning with the same “contemptuous and arrogant” language stating that: “We would like to inform you that UNICEF, as a United Nations Agency, is submitted to the ‘Single Audit principle’ that gives the exclusivity of external audit and investigation to the United Nations Board of Auditors (UNBoA) founded in 1946 through the UN resolution 74 (I) of 7 December 1946.”
Manning said what UNICEF and UNDP were saying to PNG is that they would spend funds that were intended for the people, and they would not tell how they used this money.
“In other words, if these agencies have wasted money that was intended for our people, they claim they can keep it a secret,” Manning said.
“This is exactly what we have seen with the way UNICEF uses public funding for communications and awareness and delivers limited results.
“This is a matter that must be addressed at the highest level of the United Nations, because if this lack of transparency is happening in PNG, you have to ask how many other smaller developing countries are being treated with such contempt.”
The Controller said he would ensure the PNG public and international support partners were kept aware of developments in the matter and if acquittals were forthcoming.
Republished with permission from the PNG Post-Courier.