Inquiry into the Public Accounts of the Government of Papua New Guinea for the Financial Year 2004. Report to the National Parliament
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INQUIRY INTO THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA FOR THE FINANCIAL YEAR 2004.
REPORT TO THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1. By 2004, the Constitutional and statutory scheme of accounting and accountability for the management of public monies, had collapsed.
1.2. The Committee respectfully advises the National Parliament that this collapse of accountability and responsible, lawful and competent fiscal management was, and remains, a direct threat to the viability and civil stability of the Nation and the health and welfare of our citizens.
1.3. To the end of 2004, service delivery had faltered and, in some areas failed, in large measure the result of fiscal mischief and/or incompetence on a huge scale by the very persons responsible for properly and lawfully applying public monies – our Public Service at all levels of Government and administration. The results are clear to see in any social indicator of health and education and we believe this situation continues currently.
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1.4. By 2004 Executive control of public monies and Government finances had failed and been supplanted by unaccountable management by officers of the Public Service who were themselves unaccountable, acted unlawfully or failed to carry out their lawful duties to make and submit accounts, on a daily basis.
1.5. So bad had the situation become by 2004, that the Auditor General was unable to audit significant parts of the Public Accounts and/or many areas of Government because there were no records or accounts.
1.6. This Committee rejects the Public Accounts of the Government of Papua New Guinea for the financial year 2004 as unreliable, incompetent, possibly fabricated in part, misleading and incomplete.
1.7. The Auditor General refused to certify or disclaimed the Public Accounts of the Government of Papua New Guinea for these reasons.
1.8. In 2004 the state of accounting for public monies by Government agencies became suddenly worse and more impenetrable than previous years. The Auditor General was unable to trace or reconstruct accounts or records – particularly Trust Account records – and this led to the disclaiming of the Public Accounts for that year.
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1.9. By 2004, there had developed a culture of impunity against and behind which fiscal mishandling and misappropriation has prospered. So pernicious is this culture that there was, and is, no fear or risk of detection or punishment for those who would act illegally with public funds.
1.10. The findings and resolutions of the Committee, to be effective, need to be actioned by the Government, without delay.
1.11. The National Parliament must immediately move to rectify the collapse of accountability for the use and application of public monies by the Public Service.
1.12. The National Parliament must immediately reassert the Constitutional system of fiscal management by the Executive.
1.13. The National Parliament must immediately reestablish and enforce the Constitutional fiscal power and ultimate responsibility, which is the sole province of the Executive.
1.14. The National Parliament must immediately bring the Department of Finance under control and enforce accountability in that Department for fiscal management.
1.15. The National Parliament must reestablish the political and social contract with the citizens of Papua New Guinea and bring the application of appropriated monies under control for the benefit and betterment of the people of Papua New Guinea.
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1.16. The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea must accept that the Public Service had, by 2004, failed to lawfully and properly manage, apply and account for public monies, for years.
1.17. The National Parliament must accept that it has failed to enforce and demand lawful and proper fiscal accountability for the use of and transactions with public monies, property and stores, for years. It has failed to understand or fulfill its Constitutional duty in this regard.
1.18. The National Parliament must recognize that the result of its failure has been to cede power to unelected and unaccountable officers of the Public Service.
1.19. The National Parliament must accept that this failure has resulted in the development and protection of significant abuse of public monies by the very persons charged with lawfully managing and applying public monies to the betterment of our country.
1.20. This failure has resulted in deteriorating services to our people and a failed system of delivering development to our citizens.
1.21. By 2004, the Constitutional system of public fiscal accountability had collapsed and that misappropriation, theft, misapplication, fraud and illegal and improper handling of public monies had become an incident of Governance in Papua New Guinea.
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1.22. The Department of Finance had, by 2004, arrogated to itself sovereign power over the use and application of public monies, often in open defiance of Government appropriation, policy and directive.
1.23. By 2008, the agencies responsible for fiscal management and which were required to be accountable to Government and the Parliament for their performance, refused to cooperate with this Parliamentary Committee and refused to respond when called to account for past performance. In short, the Departments of Finance and Treasury intentionally refused to render account or assistance to this Parliament.
1.24. The Public Service, by 2004, was without control or oversight in its fiscal management and acted with impunity and immunity in their handling of public monies and in its refusal or failure to account lawfully – or at all.
1.25. The major agencies responsible for fiscal management, by 2004, acted largely as they wished in respect of public monies and, in many instances, in direct defiance of Law, Constitutional requirements and Government policy and appropriation.
1.26. There was and still is a collapse of law enforcement in the application of, or obedience to, the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and every other dictate of Law relating to fiscal accountability across the entire span of Government.
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1.27. The Auditor General and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee are, as a matter of routine, treated with contemptuous disregard by the Public Service – and in particular by the Department of Finance.
1.28. By 2004 and continuing to the present, not one Department of Government can, will or is capable of complying with all (or in many cases, any) lawful requirements of fiscal accounting.
1.29. This collapse of accountability is so complete that hardly one agency can reconcile or account for its own internal financing – much less deal with or apply development or service orientated appropriation.
1.30. There is a direct correlation between the collapse of public fiscal accountability and failure of service delivery. Even a peremptory examination of Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2 shows huge misappropriation and random and illegal distribution of appropriated funds to other than their intended recipient or purpose.
1.31. The failure of service and development delivery will, and has already, resulted in significant social unrest. In other words, the loss of Parliamentary power and fiscal control, and thereby policy implementation, has created an increasingly angry, impoverished and disillusioned citizenry, deprived of the services that they have the right to receive.
1.32. Collapse of public fiscal accountability is a failure of Government and a failure of the National Parliament and Executive to understand or fulfill its Constitutional role.
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1.33. The National Parliament must accept that there is no more urgent issue of national importance than the collapse of fiscal accountability and the attendant collapse of law enforcement that has allowed this to occur.
1.34. This Committee strongly recommends that the Government seek assistance and expertise wherever it can to replace failed individuals, failed systems and intentional refusal by Officers of the Public Service to act properly and lawfully.
1.35. This Committee concludes that there is no detectable will or ability in the Public Service – particularly in the Department of Finance – to change or reform. The huge amounts of money misappropriated in that Department clearly displace any ability or wish to change or to comply with the duties imposed on that Department.
1.36. Indeed, the Department had, by 2004, abandoned almost any pretence of lawful conduct and has abandoned its true role for the conduct of private business funded by public monies. This Committee defies that Department to justify or explain the misuse of Trust Fund Suspense Account Number 2.
1.37. The Department of Finance must be brought under control and be made accountable. The Department cannot control public spending and cannot fulfill even basic accounting tasks. Government should seriously consider degazetting the Department and replacing it with a specialised accounting and fiscal agency to guide and implement development and service delivery budgets.
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1.38. Power to expend or authorize the expenditure of monies must be removed in whole or in part from the Department of Finance pending restructuring of that Department.
1.39. A new and specialized agency is required to control, approve and account for the expenditure of public monies. If necessary, that agency should be recruited from private enterprise and/or from overseas if the necessary expertise cannot be sourced in Papua New Guinea.
1.40. Decentralised accounting had, by 2004, failed. It continues in a state of failure. No agency or Department of Government has the expertise or capability to account for the use of or transactions with public monies. Either the devolution is reversed and made the task of a specialised and effective independent agency or a very significant training and oversight effort must be injected into public accountability at every level of Government right down to LLG, District and Board level – and even then, we doubt that decentralized accounting can succeed.
1.41. The Committee recommends that the number of Section 32 Officers be strictly circumscribed and that delegation to expend public monies must be restricted to officers with a proven record of honesty and who are trained, experienced and subject to training, oversight, control and a “fit and proper person” test.
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1.42. Ministers must assume responsibility for transparent accounting by their Departments and not acquiesce in the current failed system.
1.43. The culture of impunity attending failure and malpractice in our Public Service should be addressed immediately. There is no fear of detection or sanction for fiscal mishandling – and there must be.
1.44. Senior management has failed to enforce standards of accounting required by Law and no analysis of capability has ever been conducted – this must change.
1.45. The Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 requires updating and modernization.
1.46. Executive power must be reasserted over fiscal management and power over and accountability for expenditure reclaimed by the Executive.
1.47. Ongoing training and supervision of accounting staff must be implemented and maintained at all levels of Government. 1.48. Departments and agencies that fail to make statutory records or accounts should be penalized by a reduction of funding or removal and replacement of failed staff and management. There should be zero tolerance for failure or refusal to comply with the requirements of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
1.49. Inadequate IT systems need urgent attention and rectification. The fact that PGAS budget management systems
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cannot prevent invalid budget codes is totally unacceptable. The fact that PGAS and TMS cannot communicate is not acceptable.
1.50. Qualified Finance Officers only should be deployed in self accounting agencies and constantly controlled and overseen.
1.51. No agency should be designated as self accounting unless strict prerequisites are met. Departments and agencies considered by this Committee were bad enough when they were not self accounting, but since gaining this status, they have failed completely to keep even basic accounts or records.
1.52. The oversight and monitoring agencies should be properly and fully funded. The Office of the Auditor General is simply unable to meet its mandate due to lack of resources and this is not acceptable – or lawful.
1.53. So powerful and immune do Public Servants consider themselves in 2008, that the Heads of the Departments of Finance and Treasury deliberately and intentionally refused to co-operate or assist either this Committee or the Auditor General despite promising to do so and despite receiving Summonses and Notices to Produce from this Committee.
1.54. This intentional non-cooperation has seriously impeded this Inquiry and has limited our ability to make recommendations for reform. This is not acceptable.
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1.55. This refusal to assist or cooperate with a senior Permanent Parliamentary Committee clearly illustrates the extent to which our Constitutional systems of fiscal accountability have collapsed – as at December 2008.
1.56. As a result of evidence and documents received by the Committee, the Public Accounts Committee makes referrals of certain Officers of the Public Service for inquiry and possible prosecution for breaches of statutory obligations.
1.57. As a result of evidence and documents tendered to the inquiry, the Public Accounts Committee unanimously resolved to make a full and complete report of its Inquiry and findings to the National Parliament in accordance with Section 86 (1) (c) of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1994.
1.58. The Public Accounts Committee now tables the report with its strongest recommendation that remedial action be immediately taken by the National Parliament in accordance with findings and resolutions of the Public Accounts Committee.
2.1. On the 11th day of November 2008 the Permanent Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee concluded a long running inquiry into the keeping of the Public Accounts of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for the financial year ending the 31st December 2004.
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2.2. The Inquiry was held pursuant to the powers vested in the Committee by Section 86 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
2.3. When reading this Report, Members should understand that the Report concerns the Public Accounts of five years ago – not of the present time. Therefore, where the Report concerns the Public Accounts statements for 2004 or the findings of the Auditor General, the Report is written in the past tense and should be understood in that way.
2.4. However, this Inquiry did not occur until 2008 due to delays in the preparation and tabling of the Reports in the National Parliament.
2.5. Therefore, findings and censure of conduct before the Committee – particularly of the Departments of Finance and Treasury are current to December 2008.
2.6. This Report contains matters of an extremely serious nature and of immediate National importance. They require urgent and immediate attention from Government and sweeping reform and reconstruction.
2.7. As a result of evidence taken in this Inquiry, the Public Accounts Committee makes findings which are highly critical of fiscal management and accountability by Provincial Governments, Local-level Governments, District
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administration, Public Bodies and statutory corporations at all levels of Government.
2.8. The Committee conducted contemporaneous Inquiries into the Part 1 Reports of the Auditor General for the year 2004, the capacity and funding of the Office of the Auditor General, the Part 3 Reports of the Auditor General into Provincial Governments for the year 2004, the Part 4 Reports of the Auditor General for the year 2004 and all Government Trust Accounts.
2.9. The intention in conducting these detailed Inquiries was to provide the National Parliament with a comprehensive description and analysis of the state of the fiscal accountability of Government in Papua New Guinea for the year 2004 and, thereby, a full and complete examination of the Public Accounts.
2.10. This was an ambitious and unique attempt to provide an analysis of the state of our financial management and the reliability and accuracy of the statement of Public Accounts for 2004 and 2005. We intend to perform the same exercise for the financial years 2006 and 2007, as soon as possible.
2.11. As we have said, the Inquiries revealed the depth and extent of the failure of our systems of accounting, fiscal management, financial reporting and compliance with legal requirements and accounting prescriptions but, more worryingly, the extent to which organized and even
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institutionalized misappropriation and mishandling of public monies has infiltrated and compromised those systems.
2.12. The Committee intended to establish reasons for the collapse of fiscal accountability, the extent of the problem, the non- performance of the Public Service, the failure of Government to heed warnings of failure by the Auditor General, the apparent failures of the supervising agencies and the seriousness and immediacy of the problem. 2.13. Most importantly, by this Inquiry and Report, the Committee intends to identify the problems in order that appropriate solutions may be found and applied by the National Parliament.
2.14. There is no doubt that this is the first time that the mosaic of fiscal and Governance failures has been declared or understood. It is a dire picture.
2.15. The situation revealed by the 2004 Part 1 Reports of the Auditor General clearly shows a complete failure of enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring that lawful accounting procedures were maintained by Government.
2.16. The evidence received in this Inquiry, clearly shows a collapse of systems of accountability for the use of Public money, property and stores across the entire span of Government as a result of which, the 2004 Public Accounts of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea have been found by the Office of the Auditor General, to be unreliable and
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inaccurate and, therefore, was disclaimed by the Auditor General.
2.17. The Public Service at large and Heads of Departments and all agencies have failed in their duties to make and submit statutory accounts.
2.18. So incompetent and failed is the Public Service that, with no exception, not one Department in 2004 could account for or reconcile its own internal accounts or bank accounts – much less administer development or service delivery budgets with any degree of competence or legality.
2.19. This failure is evident in every agency and arm of Government from National to District.
2.20. Fiscal power and responsibility prescribed by our Constitution was, by 2004, lost to the Government and had been abrogated by an unaccountable and unelected Public Service.
2.21. Misappropriation on a huge scale characterized the handling of public monies in 2004 – particularly in the Department of Finance.
2.22. The non production of accounts and records was, in 2004, intentional and deliberate and designed to prevent audit.
2.23. The Department of Finance was, by 2004, a failed Department incapable of lawfully managing even its own internal finances and disinterested and incapable of fulfilling its duty to keep and maintain the accounting standards throughout Government.
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2.24. Trust Accounts were widely abused in 2004 – particularly within the Department of Finance, the very Department that exists to control and monitor Trust accounting in Government.
2.25. The Government should remove all Trust Accounts from the Public Service and those persons who have failed in their duties as Trustees should never again be permitted to handle or administer public monies – particularly Trust monies.
2.26. Governments apply public funds to drive development and service delivery to our people – generally in an equitable and well intentioned way.
2.27. However, large sections of our Public Service have become unaccountable, uncontrolled and ineffective in the application of and accounting for the use of appropriated funds and, at worse, act illegally with impunity and immunity in the mishandling of public monies, keeping no records or accounts.
2.28. The evidence received by this Committee shows a stark picture of a Public Service which in many areas has failed in its duties and long ago intentionally arrogated to itself unfettered control of public funds for improper purposes or which is incapable of using or applying appropriated monies.
2.29. The results of this collapse have been manifold.
2.30. The first result has been that illegal and/or and improper practices were rife – particularly in the very Department
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responsible for fiscal management, the Department of Finance, but also across the entire spectrum of Government at every level – National, Provincial and Local.
2.31. This systemic disregard of accounting requirements has opened public money to misuse, theft and misappropriation particularly by and through the very Officers of the Public Service whose duty it is to properly manage those monies.
2.32. Secondly, diverted or misused public money can only come from one source – funds belonging to and intended for service development and delivery to our people. Schools, hospitals, roads, doctors, infrastructure maintenance, medicine and basic services take a poor second place after allocated funds were diverted or misused.
2.33. Thirdly, the misuse of public monies appeared utterly uncontrolled. Governments and law enforcement agencies failed to grapple with the problem and this failure emboldened the misusers, who moved in a few years from small scale opportunistic misappropriation to the organized diversion of huge sums of public money – with apparent immunity and impunity.
2.34. Fourthly, central control of public finances by the Executive and the National Parliament had ceased. The Public Service failed or refused to keep accounts or to obey the legal requirements for accountability, yet were still funded and permitted to control public funds free of any oversight or control by the Executive.
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2.35. Fifthly, vital information which should be accurately set out in the Public Accounts was, in 2004, not available.
2.36. For example the Committee was unable to ascertain the number of Government Trust Accounts (the figure varied from 368 to 15,000), the amount of money held in Trust Accounts, interest accruing on Trust Account deposits (if any), the extent and composition of public or State debt, the actual application of public money through Trust Accounts (especially by Provincial Governments) and much more.
2.37. Sixthly, in the absence of competent and reliable Public Accounts the Committee cannot understand how Government could competently and responsibly plan, monitor, form policy, budget, manage currency, meet major fiscal challenges or crises, deliver services effectively or maintain any understanding of the fiscal state of the Nation.
2.38. Seventhly, the Government and the National Parliament had clearly lost control of the Public Service and thereby responsible, lawful and equitable application of public monies – the most basic requirement for a modern, sovereign nation.
3.1. The Public Accounts Committee commenced its Inquiry into the Public Accounts of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea on the 14th December 2007 and continued on the 30th April 2008, 4th May 2008, 14th July 2008, 22nd September
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2008, 24th September 2008 and the 11th November 2008 when the Inquiry closed.
3.2. Requests to produce evidence and documents were given to the Secretaries of the Departments of Finance and Treasury on the 12th December 2007.
3.3. These Notices to Produce were not complied with.
3.4. On the 19th May 2008 written questions were directed to the Secretary for Finance, Mr. Gabriel Yer. The information sought would have assisted the Committee and shortened this Inquiry very considerably.
3.5. No response was ever received.
3.6. The Inquiry was prolonged and frustrated by the deliberate and obstructive refusal of Mr Tosali and Mr Yer to attend the Committee or to provide assistance and information when requested. These failures will be the subject of further comment and referral in this Report.
4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Public Finances Management Act
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Public Accounts Committee
4.3 “the Constitution”
Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Treasury Management System
Papua New Guinea Government Computerised Accounting System.
4.6 “the Committee or “this Committee”
The Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts.
5. COMPOSITION OF THE COMMITTEE
5.1. The Public Accounts Committee which made inquiry into the Public Accounts of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea – 2004 was constituted as follows:
30th April 2008.
Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE MP – Chairman.
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Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya M.P. – Deputy Chairman.
Hon. Malcolm Smith-Kela MBE CMG DFC M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sailon Beseo M.P. – Member.
Hon. Fr. John Garia M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malakai Tabar M.P.
Hon. Koni Iguan M.P. – Member.
Hon. Lucas Dekena M.P. – Member.
Hon. Philip Kikala M.P. –Member.
Hon. Francis Marus M.P. – Member.
Hon. Benjamin Poponowa M.P. – Member.
Hon. Jack Cameron M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sam Basil M.P. – Member.
Hon. John Kekeno M.P. – Member.
Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE M.P. – Chairman.
Hon. Jack Cameron M.P. – Member.
Hon. Fr. John Garia M.P. – Member
Hon. Lucas Dekena M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malcolm Smith-Kela MBE CMG M.P. – Member.
Hon. Philip Kikala M.P. – Member.
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Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE M.P. – Chairman.
Hon. Benjamin Poponawa M.P. – Member
Hon. Francis Marus M.P. – Member
Hon. Koni Iguan M.P. – Member.
Hon. Lucas Dekena M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malakai Tabar M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malcolm Smith-Kela MBE CMG DFC M.P. – Member.
Hon Philip Kikala M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sai Beseo M.P. – Member.
Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE M.P.
Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya M.P. – Member
Hon. Benjamin Poponawa M.P. – Member.
Hon. Francis Marus M.P. – Member.
Hon. Jack Cameron M.P. – Member.
Hon. Fr. John Garia M.P. –Member.
Hon. Hon. Lucas Dekena M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malcolm Smith-Kela MBE CMG DFC M.P. – Member.
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Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE M.P. – Chairman.
Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya M.P. – Deputy Chairman.
Hon. Benjamin Poponawa M.P. – Member.
Hon. Francis Marus M.P. – Member.
Hon. Jack Cameron M.P. – Member.
Hon. Fr. John Garia M.P. – Member.
Hon. Koni Iguan M.P. – Member.
Hon. Lucas Dekena M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malakai Tabar M.P. – Member.
Hon Malcolm Smith-Kela MBE CMG DFC MP – Member.
Hon. Philip Kikala M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sai Beseo M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sam Basil M.P. – Member.
Hon. Timothy Bonga OL MBE M.P. – Chairman.
Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya M.P. – Deputy Chairman.
Hon. Benjamin Poponawa M.P. – Member.
Hon. Jack Cameron M.P. – Member.
Hon. Fr. John Garia M.P. – Member.
Hon. Malcolm Smith-Kela M.P. – Member.
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Hon. Philip Kikala M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sai Beseo M.P. – Member.
Hon. Sam Basil M.P. – Member.
5.2. The Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Members of the Committee were properly and lawfully appointed and empowered to sit as a Public Accounts Committee.
6.1. At all times, the Committee has taken great care to enable witnesses to make full and complete representations and answers to any matter before the Committee – in particular those matters about which the Committee may make adverse findings against individuals or entities.
6.2. The Public Accounts Committee has taken care to give careful consideration to all responses and evidence given before the Committee.
6.3. The Public Accounts Committee has taken care to seek opinion, information, facts and submissions from all sources reasonably open to it including all citizens of Papua New Guinea.
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6.4. A substantial amount of evidence was taken on oath and full and due inquiry was made of all relevant State Agencies where the Committee considered those inquiries to be necessary.
The Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
6.5. The Committee finds its jurisdiction firstly, pursuant to Section 216 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. That Section reads:
“216. Functions of the Committee
(1) The primary function of the Public Accounts Committee is, in accordance with an Act of the Parliament, to examine and report to the Parliament on the public accounts of Papua New Guinea and on the control of and on transaction with or concerning, the public monies and property of Papua New Guinea”.
(2) Sub-section (1) extends to any accounts, finances and property that are subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor General under Section 214 (2) … and to reports by the Auditor General under that Sub-section or Section 214 (3)…”.
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6.6. Whilst considering the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Committee has had regard to the Final Report of the Constitutional Planning Committee 1974 and been guided by or applied the stated intentions of that Committee wherever necessary.
6.7. The Public Accounts Committee has had due regard to Reports by the Auditor General made pursuant to audit inspections of the Public Accounts for the financial year 2004 and the five years preceding, but has conducted an Inquiry into relevant matters deemed by the Committee to be of National Importance or which arise naturally from primary lines of Inquiry and which are within the jurisdiction and function of the Committee as set forth in the Constitution.
6.8. Whilst engaged in the Inquiry the Committee was guided by two definitions contained in the Constitution, which are directly relevant to Section 216 of the Constitution. They are:
“Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea” includes all accounts, books and records of, or in the custody, possession or control of, the National Executive or of a public officer relating to public property or public moneys of Papua New Guinea;”
“Public moneys of Papua New Guinea” includes moneys held in trust by the National Executive or
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a public officer in his capacity as such, whether or not they are so held for particular persons;”
Schedule 1.2 of the Constitution.
The Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
6.9. The Public Accounts Committee also finds its jurisdiction to Inquire into the Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea in Section 86 (1) (a) of the Public Finance (Management) Ac 1995. That Section states:
“ (1) The functions of the Committee are –
“(a) to examine the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the Public Account and each statement and report of the Auditor-General presented to the Parliament under Section 214 of the Constitution or Section 113 (8) (a) of the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and :Local- level Governments; …….
6.10. The Committee has considered such statements and Reports of the Auditor General as were presented to Parliament and in particular the Part 1 Report of the Office of the Auditor General for the financial year 2004.
6.11. The Committee has further considered Reports of the Auditor General which have not yet been presented to the Parliament,
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on the basis that that evidence was tendered by the Auditor General for the consideration of the Committee and at the request of the Committee, on the basis that such material is within the purview of the Committee as a matter of national importance.
6.12. Power to refer matters for investigation and possible prosecution is granted to the Committee by Section 86A of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994:
6.13. The Committee also resolved that a full Inquiry into the keeping of the Public Accounts for the year 2004 was a matter of National importance and found further jurisdiction for the inquiry in Section 17 of the Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994.
6.14. That Section provides that the Public Accounts Committee can, of its own initiative, consider any matter within its jurisdiction to be of national importance and report to the National Parliament accordingly. The Committee, as we have stated, considers the Public Accounts of the Nation for the financial year 2004, to be such a matter.
7. RELEVANT STATUTES ETC. CONSIDERED BY THE COMMITTEE DURING INQUIRY.
Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
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7.1 The Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 prescribes the method and standard for the administration of and accounting for public monies, public properties and stores by Government.
7.2 Further, the Act imposes certain obligations on Public Servants for collection of State revenue and controls the expenditure of public monies.
7.3 Relevant sections of the Act which were considered by the Public Accounts Committee during the course of the Inquiry into the Public Accounts are:
(i) Section 5 – Responsibilities of Heads of Department
This Section prescribes the duties, powers and obligations of Head of Department.
(ii) Section 3 – Responsibilities of the Minister
This Section prescribes the obligations and duties of relevant Ministers of State.
(iii) Part X – The Public Accounts Committee
This Part empowers and imposes functions and obligations on the Public Accounts Committee. In particular, the Committee was required to consider Section 86 (A) – power to refer officers of the
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Department to the Office of the Public Prosecutor for investigation and possible prosecution relating to breaches of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and/or the Constitution.
(iv) Part XI – Surcharge
This Section prescribes personal liability for certain public servants who fail in their obligations to collect and protect certain public monies.
(v) Section 112 – Offences
This Section prescribes disciplinary action which may be taken against certain public servants or accountable officers who fail to comply with the terms of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
7.4 Section 117 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 enables the promulgation of certain Financial Instructions which establish detailed procedures for the handling, collection, expenditure, disposal of and accounting for public monies, property and stores.
7.5 The Public Accounts Committee had regard to these Financial Instructions or Directives when considering the 2004 Public Accounts.
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7.6 In particular, the Committee had regard to Part 6 Division 1 Para. 2.1 – Accountable Officers. That paragraph reads, in part:
“…..the Departmental Head is liable under the doctrine of personal accountability to make good any sum which the Public Accounts Committee recommends should be disallowed”.
Audit Act 1986.
7.7 The Audit Act 1986 establishes and empowers the Office of the Auditor General to carry out its work of overseeing and supervising the handling of public monies, stores and property by all arms of the National Government. The Public Accounts Committee had regard to the terms of this Act during the course of the Inquiry into the Public Accounts.
7.8 The Committee received considerable assistance from the Office of the Auditor General in the course of this Inquiry.
Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994.
7.9 The Committee has had regard to Sections 17, 22, 23, 25, 27, and 33 of the Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994 during the course of the Inquiry into the Public Accounts.
Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1964.
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7.10 The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1964 sets forth those privileges and powers extending to Members of Parliament, Committees of Parliament and Officers or Parliamentary Staff.
7.11 In the course of this Inquiry, the Committee had cause to examine and apply Sections 19 and 20 (1) (d) of that Act.
7.12 The Secretaries of the Departments of Finance and Treasury failed to comply with a Summons requiring the production of documents and certain resolutions and referrals were made in this respect. This matter is developed more fully in this Report (infra).
8 PURPOSE OF THE INQUIRY
8.1 The purpose of the Inquiry conducted by the Public Accounts Committee was to make full and complete examination of the keeping of the Public Accounts as revealed in the Part 1 Report of the Office of the Auditor General for the year 2004 and all the evidence relevant to the compiling and presentation of those Public Accounts.
8.2 The purpose of the Inquiry was not to improperly pursue or criticize any person or company, but to make a constructive and informed Report to the Parliament on any changes which the Committee perceives to be necessary to any item or matter in the accounts, statements or reports or any
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circumstances connected with them, which comprise the Public Accounts, all other primary material from which those Accounts are compiled and any other matter considered by the Committee to be of national importance.
8.3 Further, the intention of the Committee was to report to the National Parliament in a meaningful way on alterations that the Committee thinks desirable in the form of the Public Accounts as manifested in the method of keeping them, in the method of collection, receipt, expenditure or issue of public monies and/or for the receipt, custody, disposal, issue or use of stores and other property of the State by all arms or Departments of Government as those matters are revealed in the Reports of the Auditor General or other evidence received by the Committee.
9 THE AUTHORITY TO REPORT
9.1 The Public Accounts Committee finds authority to make this Report in Section 86(1) (c) and (d) (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) and (f) of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and Section 17 of the Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994.
10 THE AUTHORITY TO REFER
10.1 Where satisfied that there is a prima facie case that a person may not have complied with the provisions of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New
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Guinea and / or the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 in connection with the control and transaction with and concerning the accounts of a public body or the public moneys and the property of Papua New Guinea, it may make referrals of that person to the Office of the Public Prosecutor in accordance with Section 86 (1) (f) and Section 86A (1) and (2) of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
10.2 The Public Accounts Committee is not a true investigatory body or law enforcement agency capable of investigating and/or prosecuting persons for breaches of the law. The Committee is required to refer such matters to the appropriate authorities and may make such recommendations as it thinks fit in relation to any referral made pursuant to Section 86A of the PF(M)A.
10.3 The Committee is also empowered to refer for prosecution, any witness who fails to comply with a Notice to Produce any document, paper or book and / or any person who fails to comply with a Summons issued and served by the Committee. See Section 23 Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act 1994.
10.4 Further, Section 20 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1994 permits the Committee to refer for prosecution any person who, inter alia, fails to comply with a Summons to produce books, papers or documents specified in the Summons.
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10.5 Regrettably, the Committee is required to make referrals of individuals for further investigation and possible prosecution as a result either of their non compliance when summoned to this Inquiry or as a result of evidence received by the Committee in the Inquiry or their demonstrated attitude toward this Committee or its proceedings.
10.6 In particular the Secretaries of the Departments of Finance and Treasury simply refused to answer Summonses issued and served by the Committee or to assist or cooperate with the Committee. What oral evidence was given by these Officers was difficult to understand and/or unresponsive.
10.7 Those referrals were made after anxious consideration of the evidence and any explanations given by the persons concerned. The Secretaries for the Departments of Finance and Treasury were invited to make any response or show any reason why they should not be referred, but made no response to the Committee in this regard.
10.8 The Committee is cognisant that to make referrals, particularly of a senior public servant is a very serious matter which will adversely reflect on the individual concerned. These referrals are not made lightly but only after careful consideration of all the evidence and unanimous resolution by the Committee and where there is clear and unequivocal evidence which requires either specialized investigation by the appropriate agency or where a failure to cooperate with the Committee, as required by Law, was clear.
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11 METHOD OF INQUIRY
11.1 The Inquiry into the 2004 Public Accounts was established by Terms of Reference promulgated by the Committee and resolution of the Committee. The Inquiry continued for many months. A copy of the Terms of Reference is shown in Schedule 6.
11.2 The Inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the Public Accounts for the financial year 2004 was a public hearing at which sworn evidence was widely sought from a large range of sources, but received from only a small number of witnesses.
11.3 Oral evidence was received from representatives of several selected Departments of the Public Service, Provincial Administrators, the Office of the Auditor General and from the Acting Chief Secretary to Government, Ms. Margaret Elias.
11.4 Early in this Inquiry, the Committee became aware that it was dealing with a serious and thoroughgoing collapse of fiscal accountability by Government.
11.5 The Committee quickly became aware of the extent of failure and non compliance with the legal requirements of accounting for public monies imposed by the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and the Financial Instructions promulgated thereunder.
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11.6 The Committee decided to conduct a constructive Inquiry intended to identify the reasons for the collapse of accountability and to make informed suggestions and recommendations to the National Parliament to commence the process of reform and/or restoration of these systems.
11.7 To this end, the Committee made a public declaration of this intention for the purpose of encouraging assistance and cooperation from all persons to aid the Committee in addressing this very significant national failure.
11.8 The Committee solicited opinion, advice, recommendations and policy from many quarters. In particular, the Committee publically advertised its Terms of Reference and placed public advertisements in local media seeking assistance and submissions from any person who wished to give them.
11.9 The Committee anticipated receiving willing cooperation and assistance from the Heads of the two Departments responsible for fiscal management and administration in Papua New Guinea – the Departments of Finance and Treasury.
11.10 The Committee solicited this assistance over the life of the Inquiry but received virtually no assistance at all from either Mr. Gabriel Yer (Secretary and Head of the Department of Finance) or Mr. Simon Tosali (Secretary and Head of the Department of Treasury).
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11.11 The Committee concludes that these two senior administrators intentionally and deliberately decided to obstruct the Committee in its work. Letters were unanswered, questions ignored, requests for assistance disregarded and Summonses to appear as witnesses were disobeyed with no apology, excuse or leave from the Committee.
11.12 This attitude is a very serious matter. When senior public servants (particularly the Heads of Departments and, in the case of Mr. Yer the Chief Accountable Officer to Government) treats a Parliamentary Committee with contemptuous disregard, the nation has a real problem.
11.13 As a matter of Law all public servants are required to give full, timely and responsive cooperation to this Committee – representing as it does, the National Parliament in Committee.
11.14 It is necessary to point out that the collapse of public accountability either occurred or continued during the period of appointment of these two Officers and they, more than anyone, would know why and how this happened – and how to address the problem.
11.15 Inquiries by the Committee to these Officers mainly concerned policies and plans to rebuild or reestablish our systems of national accountability. Evidence on these matters would have assisted the Committee enormously.
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11.16 The attitude displayed by these and other Public Servants toward this Committee is, in our opinion, an excellent illustration of the degree to which the Public Service has become uncontrolled, unaccountable and seemingly immune to the processes of Law of and accountability for, the use and application of money entrusted to them.
11.17 This is a very serious development and one that this Parliament should no longer tolerate. In the opinion of the Committee the failure of accountability has nurtured and protected significant misuse and deviation of public monies by Government agencies to the point where, in 2004, the accounts of the nation – the Public Accounts – had become unreliable, at best.
12 WHAT IS THE PUBLIC ACCOUNT?
12.1 The systems and legal basis for the supervision and control of Government finances, and therefore of public monies, is prescribed by Subdivision A, Division 1 of Part VIII of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
12.2 Section 209 of the Constitution states that there shall be, in each fiscal year, a national Budget comprising:
(a) estimates of finance proposed to be raised and estimates of proposed expenditure by the National Government in respect of the fiscal year; and
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(c) such other supplementary budgets and appropriations as are necessary.
12.3 Section 211 of the Constitution establishes the systems of account for public monies under the control of Government. The Section states:
“(1) All moneys of or under the control of the National Government for public expenditure ……..shall be dealt with and properly accounted for in accordance with law.
(2) No money under the control of the National Government for public expenditure …..shall be expended except as provided by this Constitution or by or under an Act of Parliament”.
12.4 The term “public accounts of Papua New Guinea” is defined in Schedule 1 of the Constitution in the following manner:
“public accounts of Papua New Guinea” includes all accounts, books and records of, or in the custody, possession or control of, the National Executive or of a public officer,
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relating to public property or public moneys of Papua New Guinea;”
12.5 The Constitution gives no detailed guidance to or prescription for the handling of or accounting for public money. Those systems and the legal requirements for those accounts are set forth in the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and the Financial Instructions made thereunder.
12.6 At the outset of this Inquiry the Committee sought a clear statement and definition of the Public Accounts and the use to which they were put by various entities.
12.7 This basic question was important – not least because it would assist the Committee to understand the import of a refusal by the Auditor General to certify the Accounts or to disclaim them. Should such a decision by the Auditor General concern the Committee and, if so, why?
12.8 If the Public Accounts are found to be unreliable or prepared or presented on the basis of accounting policies that are themselves defective in some way, what recommendations should the Committee make to the National Parliament?
12.9 This question was addressed to the Office of the Auditor General both in writing and orally at the Inquiry. We received timely, comprehensible and responsive assistance from the Auditor and we record our gratitude for that cooperation.
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12.10 This issue was canvassed with the Auditor General in Inquiry, on the 30th April 2008 and the evidence given by the Auditor General both orally and by Para 6 of the Part 1 Report for 2005, is accepted by the Committee: “HON. TIMOTHY BONGA MP – Chairman:
What use is made of the public accounts and by whom? Are they used for budgeting purposes, are they used by foreign governments or credit agencies, by Treasury or Central Bank? Perhaps you could summarise Para 6 of your 2005 Report.
MR. GEORGE SULLIMAN – Auditor General:
Chairman, there are lots of users for the Public Accounts and there are a lot of uses for the national Public Accounts. The Departments themselves, our economist and the public at large, investors, central governments agencies …………,
Transcript 30th April 2008.
12.11 Para. 6 of the Part 1 Report of the Auditor General for 2005 is of direct relevance to the Committees question. It states:
“THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
Important features of the Papua New Guinea system of governing depend in part on the availability of good financial information. The Public
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Accounts are a major source of annually reported financial information.
The features of Papua New Guinean system of Government that depend in part on the availability of good financial information are:
• Consent of the governed;
• An Executive entrusted with powers;
• Impose limits on the executive use of powers; and
• Oversight of executive action.
Government in this country is based on consent formally given by representatives in Parliament through the annual appropriation of supply, approval of the Budget and passage of Legislative proposals.
Information on the benefits, costs and financial effects of Government proposals is needed before Parliament gives its consent. Subsequent periodic reporting of the financial information is needed to compare actual costs, tax burdens, and other financial effects with those intentions and for which consent was given.
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The system of Papua New Guinea provides for a strong Executive entrusted with great power……………..Reports of the actual costs and financial effects of government activities are needed to assess whether, from a financial view, Executive discretion was appropriately exercised.
Limitations on the use of Executive authority are a constitutional strategy to protect individuals liberty from abuse of the powers of the State. Some limits are financial (for example, the system of Parliamentary appropriation) and financial records are needed to show whether the Executive has complied………
The possibility of review helps deter behavior such as unfairness, fraud, waste, extravagance, embezzlement and misappropriation”.
12.12 The Committee also considered the intent of the Constitutional Planning Committee. In the Report of that Committee in 1974, the following was found:
“ …the ultimate task of management, of raising, allocating, re-allocating and then spending government fund, remains an executive responsibility.” Para. 9/2: 11.
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“ A presentation of an annual budget and statement of account to the legislature provides a most important opportunity for the audited results of one year’s government activity to be related to estimates for the following year, and for both of these to be examined against the governments long term economic plans. It provides a most useful occasion for parliament to review progress being made toward the attainment of national objectives” Para. 9/2 12
12.13 This Committee accepts that the Annual Report on the Public Account of Papua New Guinea is a vital tool of governance which performs at least two crucial functions:
1. The Public Accounts are a statistical record of National progress, achievement and adherence to planned development, budgeting, service delivery, monitoring and growth.
2. The Public Accounts are a powerful Constitutional device intended to protect against Executive excesses and to serve thereby, the social and fiscal covenant between the governed and their leaders.
12.14 Either or both of those functions demand accurate, comprehensible and reliable statements of account – which in
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turn requires lawful, competent, accurate, current and comprehensible primary records and documentation.
12.15 If reliable or accurate statements of the Public Account are not made, this Committee cannot understand how a Government can budget, fix taxation, plan development, allocate money, deliver services, maintain executive power or maintain any understanding of such vital issues as the national debt, national resources and needs, the amount of money actually held in Trust Accounts, the number of Trust Accounts, the public debt, guarantees or other vital information, fundamentally important to the modern nation state.
12.16 In our opinion, an accurate and reliable Statement of the Public Account and a review of that Statement by the Auditor General and this Committee is vital to preserve the supremacy of Parliament and to prevent the power of the Executive being usurped by an uncontrolled Public Service acting behind a veil of fiscal secrecy created by either a failure to produce accounts at all or a production of misleading or defective accounts.
12.17 In summary, the preparation and presentation of accurate and reliable Public Accounts is crucial to good governance, democratic rule and the welfare of our people.
12.18 Unelected and unaccountable public servants have deprived successive governments of this information for years by the
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simple device of refusing to create or present records or accounts of their financial activities. Astonishingly this has been tolerated by successive Governments.
12.19 In light of the contents of this Parliamentary Report, it is important to understand that the Public Account of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is only as reliable and as comprehensive as the primary documents from which it is compiled and the creation and accuracy of these records are the responsibility of the Heads of Department, Department of Finance and therefore the Head of Department, the Minister for Finance and all Ministers of Government who oversee the performance of Departments.
12.20 With regret, this Committee must record at this point that the collapse in the systems of public accounting in 2004 and in successive years, at every level of Government, has resulted in a Public Account for the year 2004, which is not reliable and may not represent or record the true state of fiscal dealing by the Government of Papua New Guinea for that year.
12.21 This Committee wrote to a number of Senior Officers of Government seeking guidance and advice. With the exception of the Office of the Auditor General, we received little or no assistance from the Departments of Treasury, Finance, Central Bank or any other supposed repository of financial expertise.
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13 WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY DOCUMENTS AND SOURCES OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS?
13.1 By Section 211 of the Constitution all monies over or under the control of the National Government for public expenditure should be dealt with and properly accounted for in accordance with law.
13.2 The accounting standards and requirements for the use of and transactions with public monies, property or stores are set forth in the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and the Financial Instructions promulgated hereunder. These documents are the primary records from which the Public Accounts are compiled and upon which they rely for their accuracy.
13.3 The Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea record the allocation and expenditure of public monies and also collection of revenues made by National Government Departments, agencies, arms or entities, Provincial Governments (in summary form) and all other functionalities and instrumentalities of the State.
13.4 The State renders services and administration through Government Departments or agencies at National, Provincial and Local Level Government levels.
13.5 Each Department, arm, entity or agency of Government is required by the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and the Financial Instructions to maintain internal,
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external and audit controls over all their dealings with public monies, property or stores and to keep reliable and current records and accounts of those dealings.
13.6 In the absence of those statutory records, data or accounts, power of and control over public funds has been lost to Government, which effectively means that Constitutional fiscal autonomy and power has also been lost.
13.7 Strict adherence to and rigorous enforcement of legal requirements for the accounting for public monies, property and stores by all arms of Government is a fundamental and indispensable item of proper modern governance.
13.8 For this reason, the Constitution and the Statutory scheme of financial management gives detailed and mandatory direction to all Heads of Department, including and in particular, the Department of Finance.
13.9 The primary material from which the 2004 Public Accounts were drawn was unreliable, at best. In many instances the records simply did not exist and no Audit examination was possible of the Government entity concerned.
13.10 This collapse can only have occurred as a result of a loss of central command and control. This Committee concludes that the loss of that control was a two-stage process.
13.11 Firstly, the Executive itself has lost control of the Public Service – and in particular the agency responsible for the management of public monies i.e. the Department of Finance.
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13.12 Secondly, the Department of Finance itself has failed in its statutory duty to enforce the requirements of law for the handling of and transactions with public money and the accounting for and reporting of those transactions and hides behind the excuse that Departments are self accounting and no responsibility of the Department of Finance.
13.13 This situation has existed and worsened in spread and depth for years.
13.14 In short, the Executive and the National Parliament failed to supervise and control the Public Service in its handling of and transactions with public monies which simply allowed those agencies to act as they pleased and obey the Law if and when they wanted to.
13.15 This has encouraged, hidden and protected a usurpation of power by the Public Service which it does not have and should not be allowed to exercise.
13.16 This Committee can only conclude that the very Department responsible for the protection and management of public monies has failed in its duty to enforce accounting standards and practices, which has inevitably resulted in unreliable, illegal, misleading and (in many cases) non-existent financial records.
13.17 Because of the failure of these systems, the Committee proposes to outline the respective roles of the Department of Finance, the Auditor General and the Public Accounts
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Committee in order that the National Parliament may obtain a clear understanding of how the system of financial management should work and the seriousness of the current failure.
13.18 Members may then compare the findings of this Committee and the Auditor General with what should have occurred.
14 CONSTITUTION OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNT
The Statutory scheme of Government Accounting and Financial Management.
14.1 The Public Account consists of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Trust Fund.
14.2 To ensure effective control, it is an established Government accounting principle that all Government receipts including loans, grants and revenue should be channeled through a single Consolidated Revenue Fund while payments are to be made out of the same Fund in accordance with the Annual Appropriation Act and other subsequent Revised Appropriation Acts passed by Parliament from time to time.
14.3 Individual Trust Accounts are established and operated within the Trust Fund and managed by responsible agencies. These may have an actual bank account or be non-bank account Trust Accounts.
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14.4 The total of the balances in the various trust accounts represent the Trust Fund. Trust monies held for various entities and purposes are permitted to be held by accounting, prudence or by given regulations.
14.5 All monies received by the State should be brought to account in cashbooks and deposited to the credit of the Waigani Public Account, the Receiver of Public Monies Accounts and operating accounts maintained with the Bank of Papua New Guinea, the Bank of South Pacific or other commercial banks which are authorized by the Minister for Finance.
14.6 The Government accounts are maintained on a cash basis. Receipts and expenditure shown in the financial statements are based on amounts actually received or actually spent in the financial year.
14.7 Of course, those records will only be as good as the primary material produced by agencies of Government who effect expenditure and receipt.
14.8 Expenses for goods and services received are brought to account in the year payment for those services are made and similarly, income received is brought to account in the year of receipt.
14.9 Expenditure is limited to the funds appropriated by the Appropriation Act or the Special Appropriations approved by other Acts of Parliament. In practice Departments are issued with a Warrant Authority that gives them the right to spend
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public money, but only to the limit of the warrant. Departmental Heads are responsible for ensuring that total expenditures incurred are within the Warrant Authorities issued to them.
14.10 Departmental Heads are accountable for over-expenditure incurred by the Department but may obtain top up funds from the Department of Finance under Sections 3 or 4 of the Appropriation Act.
14.11 Appropriations lapse at the end of the financial year. The only exception to this is where monies are advanced before the end of the financial year to make payments in connection with commitments made during the year.
14.12 The Financial Instructions set forth detailed procedures particularly for commitment of expenditure in the payment of claims. Requisitions have to be approved by designated officers and financial delegates must certify the availability of funds to commit the approved expenditure.
14.13 The Financial Regulations provide that the accounting system and records maintained by the various Departments, Provincial Treasuries and cash officers are subsidiary to the accounting system and records of the Department of Finance. The system and methodology of accounting organization in 2004, was as follows:
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GOVERNMENT OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS DIVISION
PROVINCIAL SELF CASH TREASURIES ACCOUNTING MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENTS BRANCH
SUB SUB APPROPRIATION APPROPRIATION LEDGER WITH LEDGER WITH RPM DRAWING ACCOUNT ACCOUNTS
DEFENCE DISTRICT EDUCATION TREASURIES TRANSPORT HEALTH HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES POLICE FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PRIME MINISTER AND NEC CORRECTIONAL SERVICES PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT AGRICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK CASH OFFICES LAND AND PHYSICAL PLANNING NATIONAL PLANNING PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL LEVEL GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS HOME AFFAIRS AND YOUTH COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY ATTORNEY GENERAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION
14.14 The Department of Finance, and particularly the Secretary of that Department, is fully accountable and is, in fact, the accountable agency to government for the entire performance
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of Government in its handling of and transactions with public funds.
14.15 Provincial Treasury Offices are the Department of Finance’s agencies in the Provinces. Under Section 112 of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local-level Governments, the Secretary for the Department of Finance appoints the Provincial Treasurer. The duties of the Provincial Treasurers are based on the provisions of the Organic Law and Provincial Governments or Local Level Governments. The role of the Provincial Treasury is to ensure that public monies are managed and released strictly in accordance with the law.
14.16 Under the Organic Law, the Provincial Treasury Offices are funded through Grants and are to account for the grants expended in the annual financial statements prepared for the Provincial Governments.
14.17 The Provincial Treasurer is responsible for the preparation and submission of the Provincial Government’s financial statements in accordance with Financial Instructions and the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995. These financial statements are forwarded to the Office of the Auditor General for Audit.
The Statement of the Public Account.
14.18 The Public Account Financial Statements form part of the Department of Finance’s annual operational Report to Parliament. The statement contains a report on:
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• Appropriation of funds to be available to be received and expended by the State;
• Receipts and expenditure for the year;
• Cash position at the end of the year;
• Borrowings and investment by the State; and
• Losses by the State.
14.19 The information constituting these statements of the public account comes from various sources. The Legislative controls and requirements together with the Departmental policies and procedures should ensure the records and the Public Account Financial Statements are materially complete and accurate.
14.20 As the Committee has already stated, assurance on the regularity and propriety of the Government’s financial transactions requires regular and timely reconciliation of balances shown in cashbooks with those of the respective bank accounts and constant oversight and control by the Department of Finance – even of self accounting Departments.
14.21 It is no excuse, in our opinion, for the Department of Finance to abrogate its responsibility by claiming that Departments are self accounting and therefore no concern of the Department of Finance. That attitude has led directly to a
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failed system of accounting and questionable or unreliable public accounts.
14.22 That attitude also means that the only function of the Department of Finance is to publish and submit the Public Accounts regardless of accuracy or reliability of their contents. We do not accept this.
14.23 For proper control, cashbook balances should be reconciled promptly with the sub appropriation ledger balances, bank statements and, where possible, reconciled to the quarterly revenue and expenditure statements produced by the Finance Department Headquarters.
14.24 This was not occurring in 2004 and our Inquiries into Government Departments clearly show that it is not occurring now.
14.25 It is to be noted that the Auditor General concludes that past accounting practices are inappropriate, statements of the public account are distorted and difficult to understand and that the Department of Finance, while claiming to be in the process of clearing up many problems that it has inherited, have not for many years properly fulfilled the statutory role of enforcement and oversight of accounting practices – as it should.
The Format of the Statement of the Public Accounts 2004
14.26 The Public Accounts comprise:
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• Statement A – Statement of Public Account Balances;
• Statement B – Consolidated Revenue Fund Receipts and Expenditure;
• Statement C – Receipts and payments of the Trust Fund;
• Statement D – Statement of Sources and Application of Funds;
• Statement E – Trust Fund – Particulars of Investments;
• Statement F – Statement of Direct Investments, Capital Contributions and Equity Options Rights;
• Statement G – Statement of Public Debts;
• Statement H – Statement of Lending;
• Statement I – Statement of Loans Guaranteed by Government;
• Statement J – Receipts classified under Heads of Revenue Estimates;
• Statement L – Expenditure by Departments classified under Appropriation Divisions;
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• Statement M – Notes to and forming part of the Public Accounts of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for the year ended the 31st December 2004;
• Appendix 1 – Statement of Losses and Deficiencies of Public Monies in Previous Years first reported in 2004.
The format of the 2004 Public Accounts are the same as the Public Accounts for many years preceding. The adequacy and propriety of the format will be discussed in the body of this Report.
14.27 The Secretary of the Department of Finance is responsible under Section 4 of the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995 for the preparation and presentation of the Public Accounts as prescribed by the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995.
14.28 This responsibility includes the maintenance of adequate accounting records and internal controls designed to prevent and detect fraud and error.
14.29 These matters are discussed in greater detail in this Report (infra).
15 FISCAL DUTIES OF DEPARTMENTS AND DEPARTMENTAL HEADS.
15.1 The responsibilities of a Government Department arm, entity or agency to keep proper and detailed records of all dealings
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and transactions with public monies, property and stores arises from the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995 and in the further prescriptive detail in the Financial Instructions. The requirements are not onerous and would be readily understandable by any trained Finance Officer.
15.2 Heads of Department and entities or agencies are required by Section 5 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 to, at least:
• Ensure that provisions of the PFMA are complied with; and
• All accounts and records relating to the functions and operations of the Department are properly maintained; and
• Ensure all necessary precautions are taken to safeguard the collection and custody of public monies; and
• All expenditure is properly authorized and applied to the purposes for which it is appropriated; and
• There is no over-commitment of funds and a review is undertaken each month to ensure that there is no over- expenditure or over-commitment and the collection of public monies accords with approved plans and estimates; and
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• All expenditure is incurred with due regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness and the avoidance of waste; and
• All necessary precautions are taken to safeguard stores and other property of the State; and
• Any fee, charge or tax imposed by Legislation for which the Department is responsible is collected promptly and to the fullest extent; and
• Any fee, charge or tax imposed by Legislation for which the Department is responsible is reviewed at least once in every year in order to establish whether the level of the fee, charge or tax is adequate and whether the fee, charge or a tax should be increased; and
• Ensure that financial reports on reviews and other matters are submitted to the Secretary for Finance in the format specified in the Financial Instructions; and
• Information required by the Public Accounts Committee is submitted to that Committee accurately and promptly; and
• Advice on financial management is given to the Minister politically responsible for the Department; and
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• Proper estimates in respect of collection and expenditure of public monies are prepared in a form specified in the Financial Instructions; and
• As soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year, submit to the Departmental Head of the Department responsible for Financial Management a Report on Financial Management in a form specified in the Financial Instructions.
15.3 These responsibilities are clearly stated, easily understood and cannot be derogated from or reduced by delegation. They are, for professional Public Servants, simple to implement, maintain, perform and enforce. Yet it was not done in 2004.
15.4 Within every Department, arm, entity or agency of Government there is an accountable officer who, by Section 6 of the PF(M)A is required to and responsible for applying and complying with provisions of the PF(M)A in respect of all public money, property and stores under his possession or control. In other words, he is required to account for them.
15.5 In every Department, arm, entity or agency of Government there is a public office holder responsible for the collection of revenue (where revenue is collected at all) who is responsible for prompt collection, payment into the public account and record-keeping.
15.6 By Section 8 of the PF(M)A, the Secretary for Finance may appoint an Officer to be a Finance Inspector and both that
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person and the Head of the Department of Finance are given wide powers to obtain access to all records of accountable officers and to inspect and Inquire into and call for any information arising from those records and accounts.
15.7 The Management of the Public Account is clearly set forth in Part 3 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995. None of these requirements are complex, technical or difficult to apply or understand.
15.8 The Financial Instructions promulgated under the PF(M)A makes full provisions for all necessary documentation and step by step guidance as to the application of the PF(M)A.
15.9 By Part VIII of the PF(M)A, detailed accounting and reporting requirements are set forth. There is nothing difficult or onerous about these simple steps. For example, Section 63 of the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995 requires certain statutory reports and financial statements to be furnished – and it is from these statements that the Public Accounts that relate to Public Bodies, are compiled.
15.10 Likewise, Part IX of the PF(M)A clearly sets forth the statutory requirements for accounting and reporting by Provincial and Local Level Governments. This Committee has had careful regard to these and all the other requirements of the PF(M)A and finds them simple, straight-forward, easily understood and easily implemented.
15.11 Departments, arms, entities and agencies of Government employ hundreds of officers whose only duty is to create,
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maintain and submit financial records and/or to oversee this process to ensure that it occurs. How can we have reached such a state of failure in the management of public monies?
15.12 This Committee could identify scarcely one entity capable of managing its own internal funding, bank account or budgets, much less development or service related budgets. This is the direct failure of Heads of each implicated Department.
16 DUTIES OF THE AUDITOR GENERAL
16.1 Audit review of the Public Accounts by the Auditor General is the first level of objective and independent assessment and consideration of the Public Accounts.
16.2 On the 23rd September 2005 a version of the 2004 Public Account was sent by the Department of Finance to the Office of the Auditor General for Audit, with the final version provided to the Auditor General on the 21st August 2006. Why the final version took twenty months to deliver, this Committee was unable to ascertain.
16.3 The Committee fully understands the severe staffing constraints attending the Office of the Auditor General and will make recommendations in respect of the funding and resourcing of that Office by the Government of Papua New Guinea, to enable it to carry out its statutory duty in a competent and timely manner.
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16.4 We also accept that the Office of the Auditor General has undertaken significant reforms to its work practices and we are now seeing the benefits of these reforms in currently produced Audit Reports- sometimes only weeks rather than years old.
16.5 The standard of the Reports of the Auditor General into the Public Accounts were, on the whole, competent and incisive. Clearly the state of the Public Accounts had, by 2004, deteriorated to the stage where the Auditor General had no choice but to condemn them by significant qualification.
16.6 Section 214 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea requires the Auditor General to inspect, audit and report at least once in every fiscal year to the Parliament on the Public Account of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and on the control of and property of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
16.7 The Audit Act 1989 expands and provides the above function in Section 7 (2) (A) therein. It is the responsibility of the Auditor General to form an independent audit opinion on those Public Account statements.
16.8 In accordance with that requirement the Auditor General audited the Public Accounts statements for the year ended the 31st December 2004 and finalised and signed his Report on the 28th day of November 2006.
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16.9 The Committee accepts that the Audit conducted of the Public Accounts for the financial year 2004 was made in accordance with generally accepted standards and practices on auditing. These standards and practices require that the Auditor General plan and perform the Audit to obtain a reasonable assurance as to whether the Public Accounts are free of material miss-statement.
16.10 An Audit includes examination on a test basis of evidence supporting the accounts and other disclosures in the Public Account Statements.
16.11 It also includes evaluation of accounting policies and significant accounting estimates, as well as evaluating whether the Public Accounts statements are presented fairly in accordance with statutory requirements, so as to present a view which is consistent with the understanding by the Auditor General of the Government’s financial position.
16.12 The Audit does not include any procedures that would allow the Auditor General to form an opinion on the completeness of revenue collected on behalf of the State but does cover the accounting for revenue actually acknowledged as collected.
16.13 The Auditor General, after completing his Audit, enters into discussions with the Department of Finance and ultimately presents the Audit to the National Parliament together with the Statement of Public Account.
17 PARLIAMENTARY SCRUTINY OF THE 2004 PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
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17.1 Review of the Public Accounts by this Committee is the second level of assurance as to the standard, format and contents of the Public Accounts.
17.2 Responsibility for all aspects of public finance is vested in the Minister responsible for Finance, who is required to submit to the National Parliament a Statement of Government Revenue and Expenditure.
17.3 The Auditor General is required to report to the Parliament on the control and management of public money and the property of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea at least once every fiscal year. The Parliament is required to conduct certain scrutiny and oversight of public finances.
17.4 Section 215 of the Constitution establishes the Public Accounts Committee. The primary function of that Committee is to examine the Public Accounts and control of public monies and to report their findings to the Parliament.
17.5 These reports have not been made for some years due to the fact that the Public Accounts Committee was dormant until 2004 and the fact that the 2004 and 2005 Statements of Public Account were not made available or tabled in the National Parliament until 2007.
17.6 The Statement and intention of the framers of our Constitution was to provide for scrutiny of the control of public funds and to enable the Parliament to call for an account of any irregularities and defaults in the Report of the Public Accounts. This we have strived to do.
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17.7 The Committee also has a duty to report to Parliament any alterations which in its opinion, should be made to the form of the Public Accounts or in the method of keeping them, or in the method of collection, receipts, custody, disposal, issue or use of stores and other property.
17.8 The Reports of the Public Accounts Committee are then forwarded to the Secretary for Finance who should deliberate with Departments concerning the Committee suggestions and criticisms.
17.9 Any conclusions reached after these deliberations are communicated to the Public Accounts Committee by means of a Finance Minute, which the Committee tables in Parliament.
17.10 This Inquiry and the Report to the National Parliament has been sent in draft form to the Secretary for Finance for comment and after the Report is tabled in the Parliament will be delivered to the Auditor General for the discussion process to ensue.
18 DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE.
Duty to Keep and Submit the Public Accounts.
18.1 By Section 3 (3) of the Public Finances Management Act 1995 the Minister responsible for financial matters is required to:
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“As soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year, the Minister shall cause to be prepared a detailed Statement of the receipts and expenditure of the Public Account during the fiscal year, and send it to the Auditor General”.
18.2 By Sub-Section 2 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995;
“Public Account” is defined as follows:
“Public Account” means a Public Account established by Section 10 (1) and in relation to a Provincial Government or a Local Level Government established under the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments, meaning the General Revenue Fund and the Trust Fund established for that Provincial Government or Local Level Government”.
18.3 Section 10 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 reads as follows:
i) There shall be a Public Account for each of:
(a) The National Government; and
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(b) A Provincial Government or a Local Level Government established under the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments.
ii) A Public Account established by Sub-Section (1) shall consist of:
(a) In the case of the National Government –
i. The Consolidated Revenue Fund; and
ii. The Trust Fund; and
iii. In the case of a Provincial or Local Level Government –
1. A General Revenue Fund; and
2. A Trust Fund.”
18.4 Section 11 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 directs that the Public Account consisting of public monies, shall be kept in Banks which are approved by the Departmental Head of the Department responsible for financial management or in such a manner as the Departmental Head of that Department may direct.
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18.5 This Committee concludes that Section 3 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 places responsibility on the Minister for Finance for the supervision of the finances of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea so as to ensure that a full accounting is made to the Parliament of all transactions involving public monies.
18.6 Under Section 3 (3) and (5) of the same Act, the Minister for Finance is required to cause the preparation of detailed statements of the receipts and expenditure of the Public Account for the fiscal year 2004 and send it to the Auditor General for the purpose of Audit.
18.7 The Committee further concludes that the Public Account presented by the Minister for Finance represents a statement of the entirety of the fiscal affairs of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for the financial year 2004.
18.8 The Auditor General told this Committee:
“The provision of an Annual Report into the Public Account of Papua New Guinea is a Constitutional requirement made with the intention of informing Parliament through Audited Accounts, of the precise state of the Financial Management by Government. The accuracy of those Reports is fundamental to good governance. The provision of accurate and lawful primary records from all levels, arms, entities of Government is the primary
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statutory duty of the Head of the Department of Finance.”
18.9 This Committee must report that in 2004 the Auditor General has expressed numerous qualifications of his opinion on the Public Account as produced by the Department of Finance.
18.10 The Public Account was found by the Auditor General, in summary, to not be based upon proper accounts and records and to not give a true and fair view of the financial position of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the results of its operation for the year ended the 31st December 2004.
18.11 More worryingly, the Auditor General has found that:
“…. the controls exercised over the receipt and payment and investment of monies and the acquisition and disposal of assets are not in accordance with the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and any other relevant legal obligations including the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea”.
18.12 This Committee concludes to the Report of the Auditor General shows serious failures in both the format and content of the Public Account for the year 2004 and reveals an almost complete failure by the Department of Finance and every other agency of Government to keep or require to be kept,
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accurate or, in many cases, any records or accounts at all. This is an extremely serious matter.
18.13 There is a further matter of concern. It is clear that the Department of Finance (like all other Departments) cannot even manage its own internal accounting. How can it be expected to carry out its duties to oversight government finances in general?
18.14 This Committee concludes that the Department of Finance has insufficient influence and control over government spending and has completely lost control of its oversight role. Coupled with brazen misappropriation as shown in Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2, the Department was and is a failed entity requiring urgent and thoroughgoing restructure.
19 RESPONSIBILITIES OF GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS TO THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE.
19.1 The Departmental Head and Secretary of the Department of Finance is charged, by Section 5 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995, with the responsibility to ensure that information required by the Public Accounts Committee is submitted to that Committee accurately and promptly – (Section 5 (1) (j) ).
19.2 The responsibility of that Departmental Head is not derogated from or reduced by reason of any delegation of functions by him to another person.
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19.3 The Committee concludes that the Secretary and Departmental Head of the Department of Finance, Mr. Gabriel Yer, is the Officer responsible for attending, liaising and co- coordinating the attendance and co-operation of his Department with this Inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee.
19.4 Moreover, the Secretary of the Department of Finance gave sworn evidence to the effect that he understood the statutory obligations imposed on him by the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 – which include cooperation and compliance with the Public Accounts Committee.
19.5 In his role of responsible Head of Department, the Secretary for the Department of Finance has the power to obtain full and free access at all times to all accounts and records of accountable officers that relate directly or indirectly to the collection, receipt, expenditure or issue of public money and the receipt, custody, disposal, issue of stores or other property of the State.
19.6 Time and again the Secretary made undertakings to this Committee to produce information or documents and failed to meet those promises. Time and again the Secretary failed to answer questions or letters and treated this Committee and his duty to assist it with disregard.
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19.7 The obligations on all Heads of Departments and agencies to the Public Accounts Committee are the same. All public servants are required to cooperate and provide assistance in a timely manner. Failure to do so constitutes an offence under the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
20 DUTY OF OFFICERS TO ASSIST THE AUDITOR GENERAL.
20.1 All persons have the duty to assist and cooperate with the Auditor General when required to do so.
20.2 The Audit Act 1986 gives wide powers to the Auditor General – see for example Sections 2 (power to access information or data), 4 (power to summon, examine, access, search and force delivery of information) and 5 (power to prosecute).
20.3 By Section 29 of the Audit Act 1986, offences and penalties are prescribed for obstructing or failing to assist the Auditor General.
20.4 In concert with the provisions of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995, it is clear that co-operation with the Auditor General is mandatory and enforceable. Yet for years, public servants have failed or refused to give this cooperation when it did not suit their agenda to do so.
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20.5 This Committee has wide experience of failure by Departmental Heads and Officers refusing to cooperate with the Auditor General and with the Committee itself. This Inquiry into the Public Accounts for 2004 is no exception.
20.6 In his 2004 Part 1 Report, the Auditor General makes specific findings concerning this failure in the Departments of Finance and Treasury and we will address this matter later in this Report.
20.7 At this stage we state that these failures to cooperate strike at the heart of accountability and cannot be tolerated. The Auditor General should exercise his coercive powers to force assistance and cooperation.
21. THE INQUIRY.
EVIDENCE RECEIVED BY THE COMMITTEE.
21.1 The principal evidence received by the Public Accounts Committee was the Statement of the Public Account itself for the year 2004, presented by the Department of Finance as part of its annual Parliamentary Report and the Report of the Auditor General on the 2004 Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea – Part 1 of four Annual Reports for that year.
21.2 These Reports were supplemented by oral explanatory evidence to the Committee from the Auditor General.
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21.3 The Committee has given very careful consideration to the contents of both Reports and accepts the Report of the Auditor General as it is presented.
21.4 The Committee received no evidence contradicting or qualifying the Report of the Auditor General in any respect.
21.5 The Report of the Auditor General together with the Public Accounts for 2004 were tabled in the National Parliament on the 8th April 2008. A copy of the Part 1 Report of the Auditor General for the year 2004 is contained in Schedule 2 to this Report.
21.6 The 2004 Part 1 Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea is presented in two sections.
21.7 The first (Section “A”) presents the Public Accounts which the Minister for Finance and Treasury has, in the terms of Section 3 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 caused to be prepared and sent to the Auditor General for Audit.
21.8 The Auditor General has presented his opinion on the Financial Statements and that opinion precedes Section “A” in the document presented to both the National Parliament and to this Committee.
21.9 Section “B” of the 2004 Part 1 Report of the Auditor General is a Summary of Expenditure by items of the total
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of K 5,817,095 million of expenditure appearing in Statement “B”.
21.10 In 2004 the Department of Finance produced a summarized detail of expenditure by items of the vote for National Departments and agencies for the year 2004.
21.11 Section “B” of the Auditors Report on the 2004 Public Accounts contains significant matters arising as a result of the audit performed by the Auditor General on each of the Statements “A” – “L” of the 2004 Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea.
Other Submissions or Evidence Received from Witnesses.
21.12 A list of witnesses before the Committee is contained in Schedule 1 to this Report and submissions or letters received by the Committee are shown in Schedule 5.
21.13 On the 30th day of April 2008 the Public Accounts Committee resolved that this Inquiry should be conducted in the spirit of cooperation and with the intention of making a constructive and helpful report into the keeping of the Public Account and the standard and quality of fiscal accounting across the Government of Papua New Guinea.
21.14 This resolution was made after a perusal of the 2004 and 2005 Reports of the Auditor General to the National Parliament – which clearly showed very profound problems in accountability and fiscal management across the entire span
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of Government and at every level of government in this country.
21.15 The Committee saw no point in allocating blame for what is effectively a collapse public accountability for the use of public monies, property and stores.
21.16 It is clear to the Committee that the Department of Finance, Treasury and all other Departments of government have failed in their duty to obey the law and to handle public monies with anything approaching either competence or legality.
21.17 The Committee intended this Report to be helpful, constructive and capable of assisting the National Parliament to identify problems and suggesting resolutions or solutions for those problems.
21.18 Accordingly, the Public Accounts Committee opened this Inquiry to all persons or Institutions which might have assisted the Committee in performing this difficult task and publicly advertised this intention.
21.19 Accordingly the Committee addressed open invitations seeking submissions or evidence to:
• all Governors of Provincial Governments;
• all Provincial Administrators;
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• the Vudal University;
• Heads of every Government Department;
• the Chief Secretary to Government;
• Goroka University;
• the National Research Institute;
• University of Papua New Guinea;
• the Office of the Auditor General;
• the Governor Central Bank of Papua New Guinea;
• Stantons International;
Copies of those letters are exhibited in Schedule 4.
21.20 The Committee issued Summonses or request for information to the following persons or entities:
• the Secretary of the Department of Personnel Management;
• the Secretary of Treasury;
• the Secretary for Finance
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• the Commissioner, Correctional Services;
• The Secretary Department of Agriculture and Livestock;
• The Secretary Department of Personnel Management;
• The Secretary Department of Education;
• The Secretary Department of Health.
Copies of those Summonses are exhibited in Schedule 3 to this Report.
21.21 The Public Accounts Committee received only three replies. The first reply was received from the Provincial Administrator of Sandaun Provincial Government and was helpful and timely. A copy of that letter is annexed to this Report – Schedule 5. We thank Mr. Joseph Sungi for his prompt and detailed assistance.
21.22 A letter of reply was also received from Ms Hitelei Polume- Kiele the Acting Solicitor General and Head of the Department of Justice and Attorney General. That letter was timely and helpful and a copy is annexed to this Report – Schedule 5.
21.23 A second letter was received from the Provincial Administrator of Manus Provincial Government and was helpful and informative – see Schedule 5.
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21.24 A third letter was received from the Provincial Administrator of the Sandaun Province, Mr. Joseph Sungi. That letter was helpful and prompt and we thank Mr. Sungi for his response.
21.25 To the surprise of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, we received no information or evidence from the Department of Finance, very little of use from the Department of Treasury, other Provincial Governments, Governors or Departments from which we invited responses.
21.26 In particular, letters to the Department of Finance were unanswered and requests for information to assist the Committee in its work were deliberately and intentionally ignored.
21.27 The Committee received no assistance from any academic institute or research institution or any other quarter.
21.28 The Public Accounts Committee sought submissions from the public, but received no submissions.
21.29 In an effort to identify the daily problems that might have led to the collapse of Departmental accountability and financial management, the Committee summoned the Heads of the five worst performing Departments (identified from the matrix attached to the 2004 Part 2 Report of the Auditor General) and sought a clear statement from them of the problems within their Departments.
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21.30 The evidence was helpful and we will address it later in this Report.
21.31 The evidence of the Auditor General was succinct and informative and the Committee records its appreciation for the prompt assistance it received from the Office of the Auditor General.
22. SECTION “A” – THE AUDIT OPINION ON THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31ST DECEMBER 2004
Qualification of the Public Accounts:
22.1 The opinion of the Auditor General concerning the Public Accounts of the Government of Papua New Guinea for the Financial Year 2004 is summarized at Page 14 of the Part 1 Report of the Auditor General in the following terms:
“Because of the significant effects of the matters referred to in the Qualification paragraphs I am unable to form an opinion that:
(a) The Financial Statements are based on proper accounts and records; and
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(b) The Financial Statements give a true and fair view of the financial position of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the results of its operations for the year ended 21st December 2004.
(c) Further the controls exercised over the receipt and payment and investment of monies and the acquisition and disposal of assets are not in accordance with the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and other relevant legal obligations including the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea”.
22.2 The Public Accounts Committee sought to understand the precise reasons for the qualifications and the exact effect of the Auditor’s qualification.
22.3 The evidence on this topic from the Auditor General himself (Mr. George Sulliman) given to the Committee on the 30th April 2008, is as follows:
“ HON. TIMOTHY BONGA MP – CHAIRMAN:
….in fact you stated that you cannot form an opinion at the accounts of the Government that gives reliable evidence about the Government’s financial position, results of operations and financial requirements.
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MR. GEORGE SULLIMAN – (Auditor General):
Yes Mr Chairman, my opinion is based on evidence collected that demonstrates that the records that support a lot of the balances in the public accounts are inadequate or insufficient and that there were limitations in many areas that we recalled.
22.4 And further on the same day:
“HON. TIMOTHY BONGA MP – CHAIRMAN:
What does your qualified opinion on the Public Accounts on 2004 … actually mean? What should this Committee make of your opinion? Is this a matter about which Government should be concerned and why? Is it serious?
MR. GEORGE SULLIMAN:
Chairman as I was alluding, it is a matter of serious concern and the ability to form an opinion on public accounts should be something that should be taken seriously because it reflects as I have indicated in the three categories of findings that were reported and there needs to be a lot of improvement. A considerable effort is required to bring about change
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and improvement to try and change these situations.”
“ In fact you stated that you cannot form an opinion on the accounts of Government’s financial position, results of operations and financial position.”
Mr. GEORGE SULLIMAN
“Yes, Mr. Chairman, that opinion is based on evidence collected that demonstrates that the records that support a lot of balances in the public accounts are inadequate or insufficient and there were limitations in many areas that we audited”.
22.5 Certification of the Public Accounts by the Auditor General requires the Auditor to be satisfied that the Public Accounts are free of material misstatement,
22.6 In order to reach this conclusion the Auditor General assesses accounting policies and accounting estimates, whether the Public Accounts are presented fairly in accordance with statutory requirements and present a fair view of the Governments finances consistent with the Auditors understanding of the Governments financial position.
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22.7 The Auditor also considers audits of agencies that generate revenue and expenditure when reaching a conclusion on the Public Accounts.
22.8 This Committee finds that the effect of the qualification made by the Auditor General to his opinion on the Statement of the Public Accounts for the year ending the 31st December 2004, is a matter of grave national concern.
22.9 The Public Accounts are found to be unreliable but the Auditor also reveals failures to make, keep and submit proper accounts and records of the use of public monies and a failure of the existing records and statements by all of Government which limited audit. This has rendered the Public Accounts incapable of giving a clear view of the financial position of the Government of Papua New Guinea.
22.10 This means that the state of the financial affairs of the Government of a sovereign nation in 2004 were either guesswork at best, or unknown at worst. It is difficult to imagine a more serious state of affairs.
22.11 This Committee accepts that the qualifications placed on the audit of the 2004 Public Accounts resulted from a series of failures, all of which arise from the inability of Government to keep records or accounts as it is required to do and the overall failure of the Department of Finance to perform its lawful functions of enforcing accountability.
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22.12 The Public Accounts Committee has spent a great deal of time carefully considering the contents of both the Statement of the Public Account for the financial year 2004 and the qualifications placed on those statements by the Office of the Auditor General.
22.13 We propose to address each of the findings of limitation made by the Auditor General in turn, but at the outset, we advise the National Parliament that the Public Accounts Committee accepts the limitations as proper, reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.
22.14 The evidence led before this Committee clearly shows the considerable, significant and longstanding defects in the systems of public accountability across the entirety of government many of which on their own would have meant a qualified or disclaimed audit.
22.15 Equally the evidence shows illegal, unconstitutional, negligent and intentionally deceitful conduct in the handling of and accounting for the use of and transactions with public monies, property and stores in the financial year 2004 by all Departments and entities of Government, but especially the Department of Finance.
22.16 Before we consider the limitations which gave rise to the qualified audit report it is important that the nature, importance and legal implications of the Auditor Generals qualification should be explained.
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22.17 The Auditor General has given the following explanation, which we accept:
My certification of the Public Accounts would be like that of a public or private entity wherein an opinion is based……on the same or similar proceedings. The type of opinion to be expressed by an Auditor is based on accounting standards which the Auditor has found to be appropriate in the particular audit.
My audit of the Public Accounts is no exception….. A disclaimer of opinion is expressed when the effect of the limitation of scope is so material and pervasive that the auditor has not been able to obtain sufficient evidence and accordingly is unable to express an opinion on the financial statement.
A limitation of scope may arise when the auditees records are either inadequate or the auditor is unable to carry out a proper audit procedure that he believes necessary.
An example of limitation of scope:
In the Public Accounts expenditure by National Departments in almost every year approximates one third of the recurrent expenditure of the State.
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There has been a limitation of scope for the last three years due to no effective reconciliation by National agencies against their reported expenditure…………
Due to the amount involved (one third of the expenditure of the State) this constitutes material limitation of scope.
If the limitation of scope is not so material and pervasive a qualified opinion is expressed as being “except for” the effects of the matter to which the qualification relates.
In other words, inability to form an opinion is not a normal occurrence and it is a worst case scenario for both the auditor and auditee.
When the auditor is aware that material limitation of scope exists, the auditor would normally not accept such an engagement unless required by statute or legislation.
22.18 Clearly the opinion of the Auditor General for the 2004 Public Accounts arises from very serious failures giving rise to material limitations of scope.
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22.19 The Committee has carefully considered whether and to what degree both it and the National Parliament should be concerned at the audit finding.
22.20 We conclude that the opinion of the Auditor General is a matter of national concern and the Government should immediately address the underlying audit concerns and the reasons therefore.
23. WHY DISCLAIM THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS IN 2004 AND NOT IN PAST YEARS?
23.1 In the course of the Inquiry the Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya MP asked the Auditor General why he had decided to disclaim the Public Accounts in 2004, when clearly the same problems that had resulted in the disclaimer had existed for years. The evidence was as follows:
Hon. Dr. Bob Danaya MP (Deputy Chairman):
Auditor General, it seems clear to this Committee that the deterioration did not suddenly happen in 2004 but had been a slow deterioration for many years. Did you reach the same opinion in the period 1999 – 2004? If not, why not and why suddenly in 2004?
Mr. George Sulliman (Auditor General):
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Deputy Chairman, it is correct that the deterioration did not suddenly happen. The uncertainty related to the accuracy and completion of the accounts and balances was of less impact in prior years and we were able to retrace and add some confidence and that is why the nature of the opinions in past years was different.”
23.2 The Committee explored this matter further and sought written submissions from the Auditor General. In relevant part, the Auditor General reported:
“Qualification in 2004 arose from deterioration of controls and reliability of accounts and records commencing in 2004 compared to previous periods.
In previous years…..overstatements and understatements were easily quantifiable by my Officers.
The amounts of discrepancies prior to 2004 although still significant, were relatively smaller.
The disclaimer of audit opinion (in 2004) was a result of increased uncertainties over the reported amounts, deterioration of controls and the magnitude of discrepancies. The Department of Finance was also more willing to investigate our concerns and take action on them.”
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23.3 This means that in a period of twelve months, Government accounting and record keeping and the performance of the Department of Finance deteriorated to such a degree that the Auditor General could not properly audit the Public Accounts of this Nation.
23.4 We do not believe that collapse was unintentional or inevitable.
23.5 The speed of the collapse of accountability should be a matter of great concern to Parliament.
23.6 Further, information lately received by this Committee suggests that the deterioration continues unabated as at December 2008.
23.7 The Committee now addresses the limitations which resulted in a qualified audit – all of them arising from a failure or refusal by our Public Servants to perform even the most basic accounting functions:
24. LIMITATION OF SCOPE ON THE AUDIT
The basis for the disclaimer by the Auditor General.
24.1 The Auditor General concludes that he is unable to form an opinion on two matters. They are:
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(i) whether the financial statements were based on proper accounts and records; and
(ii) whether the financial records may be relied upon to present fairly the Governments financial position, results of operations and financial requirements.
24.2 The reasons for this finding may be summarized thus:
Reservation 1 : Limitation of Scope.
(i) National Government expenditure:
Manual journal adjustment of K 3.496 billion were processed against the General Ledger post balance date. There has been no reconciliation by Agencies against their reported expenditure.
(ii) Consolidated Revenue Fund:
Unresolved differences between Departments and records of K 24 million.
(iii) Public Account Balance:
Differences in opening and closing of the Public Account created uncertainty as to the correct balance – K 131 million difference.
(iv) Provincial Treasury Account:
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K 90 million apparently held in Provincial bank accounts could not be verified as accurate due to poor or non existent bank reconciliations.
(v) Accrual Items:
Incorrect disclosure of accrual items wrongly reduced the Public Accounts by K 47 million.
(vi) Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2:
Abuse of Trust Suspense Account No 2 is so serious that it alone would justify disclaimer of the Public Accounts.
Investments could not be measured due to valuation not performed and incomplete records.
The Auditor General found lack of records and poor controls in the maintenance of records.
Breaches of the Constitution and Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and other Statutes and Rules.
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24.3 The Auditor General identifies abuses in the recording of and accounting for expenditure by agencies of Government which this Committee regards as very serious. The Auditor summarises the position thus:
“The number and magnitude of audit issues identified across different auditees indicate that overall, there were significant weaknesses in the control environment. The control activities such as delegations, authorizations, reconciliations, data processing, system access etc. were not sufficiently robust to prevent, detect or correct error or fraud.
It is correct to say that there is a poor standard of Government accounting.
The disclaimer of opinion for 2004 is due to a limitation of scope and inadequate records and accounts. Some of the records were fabricated, but in most instances it was poor performance and absence of accountability.”
Expenditure by National Departments
24.4 The facts are:
• The Reporting period ending on the 31st December 2004 was not closed until September 2005. In that period
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many journal adjustments totaling K3.496 billion were made against the General Ledger.
• These adjustments were made against total combined recurrent and development expenditure of K5.817 billion and represented thousands of individual journal adjustments.
• The net effect of these adjustments resulted in a decrease in revenue of K65.908 million and an increase in expenditure of K 224,006 million.
• There has been no effective reconciliation by national agencies against their reported expenditure and it was not practicable for the Auditor General to extend audit procedures sufficient to verify the veracity of the adjustments.
24.5 The Auditor General expresses concern at the need to process this volume of adjustments and considers that it reflects adversely on the effectiveness and capability of accounting systems and the practices of Government agencies. With this conclusion, the Public Accounts Committee agrees.
24.6 K 3.496 billion of adjustments is a significant increase over the K0.840 billion in 2003 and has also attracted concern by the Office of the Auditor General.
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24.7 The Committee concludes that these enormous adjustments were either made necessary because of the incompetent record-keeping and accounting and clearly show that neither the Department of Finance nor any other Department has any accurate records or indeed any idea of precisely what is occurring with the use of transactions with public money by agencies of government.
24.8 Although the bottom line may appear correct in the public accounts, the method of achieving that balance is suspect. Such an approach is utterly unacceptable by Government, and in the smallest private company, would attract the attention of Corporate regulators.
24.9 If qualification by the Auditor General was based on this evident failure to keep, maintain and submit reliable records of expenditure, the Committee accepts that qualification.
Consolidated Revenue Fund
24.10 The Public Account is formed from the Trust Fund with a balance of K 368.156 million and the Consolidated Revenue Fund with a deficit balance of K236.760 million. The total balance of the Public Account as at the 31st December 2004 was K131,369 million.
24.11 The Auditor General finds that the deficit balance is very largely a result of the Public Accounts reporting Unpresented Cheques amounting to K222.675 million.
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24.12 Audit has revealed Unresolved Reconciliation Items that exceed K 24.5 million between reporting by the Departments and the balance disclosed in the Public Accounts.
24.13 This has been a constant problem outlined in the Part 2 Reports of the Auditor General for many years. Departments, arms and entities of government appear incapable of reconciling accounts – including their own internal working accounts.
24.14 The Auditor General has been unable to validate the balance of Unpresented Cheques as a result of inadequacies in the recording systems and cheque management practices of national agencies and the Department of Finance.
24.15 Further, Unpresented Cheques form part of the Reconciliation of the Cashbook balance and the bank balance and should not form part of the balances of Statement “A”.
24.16 The Auditor General has told this Committee, and the Committee accepts that these deficiencies and errors alone are sufficient to warrant a disclaimer of the Public Accounts. We accept this evidence and the conclusion of the Auditor General.
Balance of the Public Account.
24.17 The balance of the Public Account as at the 31st December 2003 was K 98,029,185 which was the opening balance for 1st January 2004.
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24.18 Statement “D” reports that the net increase in cash for the reporting period ending 31st December 2004 was K 84,553,000 which means the closing balance for the Public Account as at the 31st December 2004 should be reported as K 182,582,185 but was in fact reported in Statement “A” for the Public Account at the 31st December 2004 as K 131,396,224.
24.19 There is a reconciliation difference of K 51,185,961 and the Auditor General concludes that this discrepancy is the result of inappropriate accounting practices that have been utilized for many years.
24.20 The Auditor General told this Committee, a person reading these accounts could not be satisfied as to their accuracy and that the balance of the public account – probably the most fundamental issue of all – is simply wrong.
24.21 This is not acceptable and demonstrates not only the inadequacy and inappropriate nature of accounting practices that have become established across all Government, but a failure to change or improve them.
Provincial Treasury Operating Account.
24.22 The Auditor General records that Statement “A” of the Public Accounts for 2004 includes an amount of K 19,297,934 being held in Provincial Treasury Operating Accounts. It discloses
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bank balances of K 343,649,027 but contributes to the Public Account total sums of K 131,396,224.
24.23 The K 90,297,134 comprises 19 Provincial Treasury Operating Bank Accounts totaling K 85,572,280 which represent a mixture of National Government and Provincial Government funds.
24.24 The Auditor General could not determine the amount that should be accounted for in the Public Accounts. The Auditor General reports that only the Receiver of Public Monies Bank Balances of K 4,724,720 could be verified as this relates to National Government Revenue collected at the Provincial level.
24.25 The Committee concludes that, as a result of the collapse of accountability, record keeping and reconciliation at Provincial level and as a result of the complete failure of the Department of Finance to oversight accounting requirements, neither the Government nor any person who reads the Public Accounts can have any idea of the exact division of funds between National and Provincial Government or the amount of Provincial Treasury Operating Account Funds which should appear in the Public Account – and thereby the state of Provincial Government funding.
24.26 This failure is fundamental and bespeaks profound incompetence or negligence (or both) at every level of the accounting chain.
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24.27 This Committee concludes that this issue by itself would be sufficient to qualify or disclaim at least this part of the Public Accounts.
24.28 This information is vitally important to planning, service delivery and to an understanding of the operation and state of governance by Provincial Governments. Further, in light of the failure, the question must be why funding continued to flow to Provincial Governments which cannot manage their own affairs?
24.29 Further, the role, function, competence and honesty of the Department of Finance are a matter of great concern to this Committee. Provincial Government Treasuries answer directly to the Department of Finance and are under the direct control – indeed are appointees of – the Department of Finance.
24.30 Why has the Department of Finance not enforced accounting systems as the Law requires? The Committee cannot answer this because the Department of Finance refused to answer our inquiries.
24.31 We accept the limitation declared by the Auditor General.
Government of Papua New Guinea payables.
24.32 The Auditor General has identified 14 amounts incorrectly stated as the Government of Papua New Guinea Payables in Note 6 Part 1 Statement “F”.
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24.33 Two of the identified amounts have a combined negative balance of K 83,865,000 million resulting in Statement A disclosing a “liability” of K 47.104 million.
24.34 This Committee considers that this balance represents non- cash items and as a result should not be included in the Statements or in prior year Statements.
24.35 The Auditor General states that this issue was raised with the Department of Finance during the course of the Audit of the Public Accounts for 2004. As a result a revised accounting policy has been implemented.
24.36 However, that revised policy is not in accordance with Part 3 of Appendix 1 of the Financial Instructions which form part of the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995 nor does it reflect recognised Cash Reporting Practice.
24.37 This Committee is concerned at the evidence of the Auditor General on this issue. The practice of recognizing “Payables” and “Receivables” reduce the Public Account by at least K47.104 million and the precise reasons for this action are entirely unclear.
24.38 Once again, the most basic information is unreliable as a result of either negligent or intentional accounting failures.
24.39 Further, this Committee is inhibited in its Inquiry and unable to advance the reasons for these actions because the Department of Finance refused to assist the Committee in this respect.
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24.40 However, we accept the limitations on the Audit as reported by the Auditor General.
24.41 The Auditor General has examined Statement “E” – “Particulars of Trust Fund Investments.”
24.42 This Statement discloses Investment Funds totaling K 7.368 million
24.43 The Auditor General was not provided with the required ledger records of banking details for these investments. As a result he was unable to satisfy himself as to the completeness and accuracy of the disclosures.
24.44 This means that the Department of Finance is refusing to assist the Auditor General and provide required records and banking details for investments of the State – despite the fact that it is required as a matter of law to assist the Auditor General when called upon to do so.
24.45 It also means that the records may not exist. We cannot conclude on this issue because neither of the Departments of Finance or Treasury assisted the Committee in this regard.
24.46 Of concern to this Committee is the fact that these failures have continued for some years and the Auditor General has
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made similar findings in past years for exactly the same reasons.
24.47 This failure to co-operate is a common complaint received from the Auditor General. The Department of Finance and other line Departments ignore the Auditor General’s requests for information as a matter of routine.
24.48 There can only be one explanation for this failure. Departmental Heads would rather risk prosecution for non- cooperation (a remote possibility) than reveal the contents of the documents – if they exist at all – and thereby their own failures.
24.49 Non-cooperation with the Auditor General is, in the opinion of this Committee, a deliberate and intentional subversion of the Constitutional framework of fiscal management and oversight. It is utterly inappropriate and unlawful behavior.
24.50 More worryingly, this behavior has become an incident of public administration and is performed on an annual basis with complete immunity and impunity. This Committee has even seen examples of physical obstruction of the Auditor General by officers of Government agencies to prevent audit.
24.51 In the opinion of this Committee, it is high time that the Auditor General either alone or with the assistance of other agencies, prosecute the Heads of Department and defaulting managers for non-cooperation and breach of their obligation
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to assist the Auditor General and failure to perform their lawful duties.
24.52 This Committee intends to censure the Department of Finance, the Head of that Department and a number of other Departments, agencies and entities for their failure to cooperate and failure to produce documents and records when called upon to do so by both the Auditor General and this Committee, and to refer certain officers for further investigation and possible prosecution arising from that failure.
Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2
24.53 The Report of the Auditor General concerning abuses of Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2 is the single most serious issue arising from the 2004 Public Accounts revealing, as it does, the level of corruption, incompetence and intentional illegality which characterizes the operation of the Department of Finance in 2004 and, as will be shown in the Report of this Committee on the 2005 Public Accounts, during later years.
24.54 Members should be aware that this litany of abuse was only detected because of the work of the Auditor General. The Statement of the Public Accounts prepared by the Department of Finance failed to mention the matter. In light of the colossal amount of public money illegally passing through this Trust Account, that omission can only be intentional.
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24.55 This issue is dealt with in more detail later in this Report, but the issues which limited the scope of audit and therefore form the basis for qualification of the audit of the 2004 Public Accounts are as follows:
• Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2 is a non-bank Trust Account;
• The Trust Instrument establishing this account is poorly drafted, but it is clear that the account was intended as a mere holding or recording account for monies received by the State on a temporary basis. It was intended for such things as bail money, child maintenance and compensation payments – monies which were held temporarily by the State pending either reimbursement or payment to recipients.
• This account only ever received approximately K 600,000 of legitimate payments until 1990.
• Thereafter, this account received huge amounts of public money that appears to have been used as a form of conduit or slush fund for improper handling of very large amounts of public money in an utterly uncontrolled manner by officers of the Department of Finance. A history of account usage is shown below:
YEAR B/F RECEIPTS PAYMENTS TOTAL C/F 1999 2,422,000 18,266,000 34,814,000 4,139,000 4,139,000 2000 4,139,000 31,638,000 12,151,000 43,834,000 23,671,000
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2001 23,671,000 123,693,000 34,475,000 158,168,000 112,889,000 2002 112,889,000 52,154,000 104,080,000 156,234,000 60,963,000 2003 60,963,000 121,651,000 168,339,000 289,990,000 14,274,000 2004 14,274,158 308,668,179 323,587,309 632,255,488 -644,972 2005 -644,972 110,272,149 109,330,030 219,602,179 297,147
• In 2004, K 308.668 million was receipted into the account and K 323.587 million was paid out of the account providing for an overdrawn closing balance of K 0.645 million.
• Over 7000 individual transactions were processed against this account in 2004.
• No subsidiary ledgers were maintained to track credits or withdrawals.
• The Auditor General has not been able to determine that a credit existed for each payment against the account as required by the Trust Instrument – hence the operation of this account was unlawful.
• Audit testing did confirm that there were numerous payments that did not have a matching credit.
• An overdrawn trust account is an impossibility and shows that there could not have been matching credits for every payment.
The Auditor General states:
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“The process and control adopted by the Department of Finance management over the accounting for transactions recorded in the Account fell far short of accepted Financial Management Practice and failed to meet the requirements of Section 19 of the Public Finance (Management) Act.”
• Receipts into the account are a matter of great concern. Analysis of receipts show that they came from a range of Trust Accounts and Expenditure Votes often through “repaid” or “cancelled” cheques that should have been repaid to their source.
In other words, unused money which should have been returned to Consolidated Revenue for future planned and appropriated use was illegally siphoned through this Trust Account and used for unbudgeted purposes – not by Government but by, and at the absolute discretion of, anonymous officers of the Department of Finance who had no power or right to use it.
• The account was also credited through journal entries but transactions to return these receipts and other credits were not evident.
• Analysis of payments exceeding K 20,000 and amounting to K 198,393,463 showed that the account
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had been used as another Miscellaneous Vote 207 by the Department of Finance – quite unlawfully.
• There were significant payments from the account that relate to current expenditure by the Department of Finance and this is completely improper.
• Accounts and records maintained by the Department of Finance relating to receipts and payments for this account were inadequate and for all practical purposes audit trails did not exist.
The Auditor General reports:
“I am of the view that the operation of Trust Suspense Account No. 2 has been inappropriate and has facilitated the transfer of funds, budgeted elsewhere, into this Account. The Account was used to meet unbudgeted expenditures and sometimes irregular payments which underestimate the expenditure of certain Departments in Statement B.
The Department of Finance has bypassed the processes for transfer of appropriation provided by Section 24 of the Public Finance (Management) Act and exceeding the limits for transfer of appropriation set by the Parliament
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in the Appropriation (Recurrent Expenditure 2004) Act.
Payments processed through the Account resulted in misappropriation of funds as expenditures have exceeded legal appropriations provided by the Appropriation (Recurrent Expenditure 2003) Act. The expenditure of monies not appropriated has breached the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.”
24.56 This Committee is very concerned at the finding of the Auditor General in relation to Trust Suspense Account No. 2.
24.57 Plainly stated, this Account was used as a device to record a huge, ongoing blatant misuse of the public purse by senior members of the very Department responsible for management and control and protection of public monies, who actively, routinely and intentionally involved themselves in illegal misapplication of huge amounts of public funds by deliberately overriding controls and legal requirements for years despite warnings, detection and report by the Auditor General.
24.58 Compounding this misconduct was a failure to maintain or submit any records or accounts sufficient to perform audit work to any acceptable standard – and in the opinion of this Committee, that failure was deliberate and intentional.
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24.59 All these findings are serious enough, but the conduct of these officers was, in our opinion, a direct challenge to the fiscal sovereignty and power of the State as prescribed in the Constitution. The Auditor General has made the same conclusion in 2005 and we believe he is correct.
24.60 This misconduct continued for many years and in itself would be sufficient to throw significant doubt on any claim that the Public Accounts are reliable or accurate. The Committee accepts the limitation on audit declared by the Auditor General.
ACCOUNTS AND RECORDS
Losses and Deficiencies
24.61 Statement “A” of the Public Accounts notes certain Losses and Deficiencies of Public Monies and Property totaling a mere K 87,860.
24.62 The Auditor General however has identified unrecovered losses during the reporting period of K 3,215,814 representing a material misstatement.
24.63 A significant number of Departments do not maintain records of assets and as a result are unable to report accurately the assets that are stolen.
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24.64 In 2004 payment of large amounts of money to fraudulent claims totaled many millions of kina but these are not shown as losses or deficiencies.
24.65 This Committee accepts the qualification arising from this limitation of scope on the Audit of the Public Accounts for 2004. The problems posed by failures of Departments, arms and entities of government to maintain asset registers either in any acceptable form, or at all, are well-known to this Committee.
24.66 This is a circumstance which cannot be allowed to continue. The Government has no way of ascertaining exactly what property it owns, what has been disposed of or losses through any cause.
24.67 The Committee cannot understand how this can have occurred or, once it had occurred, why neither the agencies concerned nor the Department of Finance addressed the issue. An asset list is not a difficult task to prepare or main- tain.
24.68 The Committee accepts the limitation on audit declared by the Auditor General.
Disclosure of Investments – Capital Contributions and Equity Rights
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24.69 Statement “F” discloses the Government’s investments, capital contributions and equity option rights in some government-owned companies and statutory bodies.
24.70 The Auditor General concludes that the value of investments is considerably understated when compared with the accounts of the entities in which the State has equity. The Statement is incomplete and fails to disclose a number of investments.
24.71 Again the Committee accepts this limitation upon the Audit and the qualification given by the Auditor General.
25. LOAN LIABILITIES
25.1 The Auditor General has found errors and omissions in Statement “G” concerning the public debt of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The Auditor concludes that the Statement understates public debt by K 37.65 million.
25.2 The Committee was initially sceptical of this part of the Report of the Auditor General and examined the facts carefully because we simply could not believe that public debt could not be accurately known.
25.3 However, after Inquiry we do accept the limitation found by the Auditor General.
25.4 The Committee sought explanation or qualification from the Departments of Treasury and Finance, but received nothing from either entity.
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26. CONTROL OVER ASSETS: PUBLIC BODIES.
26.1 Section 62 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 requires that public bodies maintain records and control over assets or assets in the custody of public bodies.
26.2 The Auditor General concludes that, in 2004, agencies did not maintain these records or that, if they do exist, they are incomplete or inaccurate and generally lack the internal management practices, procedures and control frameworks required for them to meet their obligation to manage assets.
26.3 Again, this problem is familiar to the Public Accounts Committee. In almost every Inquiry conducted by this Committee we have found an absence of any competent practices, procedures or control frameworks capable of managing assets.
26.4 The Committee accepts the limitation of scope and therefore the qualification made by the Auditor General as a result of the failure of Government to control assets.
27. ACCOUNTING PROCESSES.
27.1 The Auditor General reports that reconciliations were not undertaken, external confirmations were not available, registers need updating and files and records were not available in almost all Departments, arms and agencies at all levels of Government.
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27.2 There is a lack of any audit trail by way of records or accounts, rendering the verification of balances difficult, if not impossible, in many instances.
27.3 The Auditor General identifies the following examples:
• The disclosure of trust accounts in Statement “C” is incomplete and the balances are bank balances and not cashbook balances as the Department of Finance simply does not have the appropriate records;
• A number of Trust Account balances could not be verified in the absence of independent external confirmations;
• A lack of registers and records relating to investments reported in Statement “E”;
• In Statement “A” there was no reconciliation of the reported balance of Unpresented Cheques to Departmental records.
• Reconciliations between receipt records held by the Department of Finance to Revenue Collection Agencies, the Internal Revenue Commission and the Department of Lands and Physical Planning reveal significant reconciliation differences that have not been resolved. The nett effect of these differences result in the Public
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Accounts disclosing K 15.325 million less than the agencies record as collected.
• An accurate register of Trust Instruments is not maintained and as a result it is not possible to confirm the completeness of the approved Trust Accounts disclosed in Statement “A”. This is a very serious failure which the Committee will address later in this Report.
• Due to the lack of records, it is not possible to confirm Trust Account balances of K84.944 million. This is a significant failure that can be directly sourced to the Department of Finance.
• In addition a number of Trust Accounts were not disclosed at all or the disclosure was incorrect. Hidden accounts are an open invitation to malpractice. This Committee sought an explanation from the Secretary of the Department of Finance but we received no response.
28. OTHER STATUTORY MATTERS
28.1 The Office of the Auditor General has reported breaches of the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995, in the preparation, keeping and presentation of the Public Accounts for the Financial Year 2004.
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28.2 Each or these breaches are serious but in combination present a picture of widespread failure, incompetence and, frequently, intentional obfuscation and secreting of records and documents by the Public Service at all levels of Government.
Expenditure Exceeding Appropriation
28.3 Statement “D” of the Public Accounts, discloses actual expenditure against appropriated expenditure. Separate appropriations are required for the National Parliament, the Judiciary, Public Expenditure and Development Expenditure.
28.4 Note 2 to the Statement explains that expenditures have exceeded legal appropriations by K 1,295,000,000.
28.5 The Auditor General identifies four Appropriation Acts involved in this illegal conduct:
1. Appropriation (Recurrent Expenditure 2004) Act 2003 and additional Appropriation Act (Recurrent Expenditure 2004) Part A 2004 which provide total appropriation of K 3,276,214,000 while the actual expenditure was K 4,470,746,000.
The Auditor General reports the appropriation for account expenditure as disclosed as being exceeded by K 1,194,532,000. Of this amount, K 1,017,000,000 both related to debt restructuring and as a result the
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net effect of this restructure on the Appropriations is nil. As a consequence, the legal appropriation for this Recurrent Expenditure has been exceeded by K 177.532 million.
2. The Appropriation (Judiciary Services 2004) Act 2003, which appropriated K 27,003,300, but which Statement “B” incorrectly discloses as K 25,875,000 while the actual expenditure was K 27,375,000. Hence, the legal appropriation has been exceeded by K 371,700; and
3. Appropriation (National Parliament 2004) Act 2003 appropriated K 54,000,000 and the actual expenditure was K 57,006,000. As a result the legal appropriation has been exceeded by K 3,006,000.
28.6 This Committee finds that the expenditure of monies not appropriated has breached the Constitution and blame for this situation must lie directly with the Public Service.
28.7 Clearly, in this matter, that Department has abandoned any pretence of obeying the law of fiscal accountability and ignores the Law with impunity and immunity.
28.8 This Committee accepts the limitation and therefore the qualifications imposed by the Auditor General as a result of these irregularities.
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28.9 This Committee sought explanations from the Department of Finance, but received no assistance or response. Transfer of Appropriations
28.10 The Department of Treasury records show net transfers between services pursuant to Section 24 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 as being at least K 596.61 million. It exceeded the amount authorized by the Parliament in the Appropriation (Recurrent Expenditure 2004) Act 2003 by K 278.489 million.
28.11 Further, Statement “B” discloses numerous incidences where the recurrent and development expenditure for individual agencies exceeded the revised appropriation.
28.12 No authority was provided to transfer appropriation between agencies by the Appropriation (National Development Expenditure 2004) Act 2003. However, K 96.237 million of transfers occurred.
28.13 The Department of Treasury has therefore exceeded the authority provided by Parliament to transfer appropriations between services and failed to control the expenditure of National Government agencies. On what legal basis this was done, we could not ascertain.
28.14 Therefore, this Committee concludes that there are systemic and systematic failures and illegality in the Department of Treasury in that it failed to carry out its duties pursuant to the
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Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and failed to obey the law of appropriations between agencies with no explanation, reason or legal basis.
28.15 This Committee accepts the limitation of scope and qualifications on audit imposed by this illegality and will make censure and further comment on this practice later in this Report.
28.16 The Committee sought explanations from both the Departments of Finance and Treasury, but received nothing.
Overdrawn Trust Accounts
28.17 Statement “C” discloses closing balances for accounts forming the Trust Fund.
28.18 Overdrawn Trust Accounts are a breach of Section 17 of the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995. This Section requires that monies may only be paid out of Trust Account for the purpose of the Account or as authorized by law or if sufficient credit is available in the account.
28.19 The Auditor General finds certain Trust Accounts have become overdrawn or the amount increased during the reporting period and concludes that this represents a failure to effectively control and manage expenditure by the Departmental Heads of the Departments concerned.
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28.20 The Committee sought an explanation from the Department of Finance, but received no response. 28.21 The Public Accounts Committee endorses the limitation of scope and therefore the qualification imposed on the Audit as a result of these failures.
29.1 The Auditor General has, for many years, in its Part 1 Report on the Public Accounts of Papua New Guinea, warned the Government of the increase of deterioration and failure in the Management and Accounting for transactions with public monies, property and stores. Those warnings have not resulted in any remedial action that this Committee can identify.
29.2 Finally, in 2004, the Auditor General, because of the significant adverse effects of the matters set out in this part of our Report, has disclaimed the Public Accounts.
29.3 This Committee accepts those qualifications and the Audit opinion. It accepts the basis upon which those qualifications and the opinion were made.
29.4 The Public Accounts Committee concludes that there was, by 2004, a very serious collapse in almost every aspect of public fiscal accounting and control in every Department at every level of Government.
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29.5 The failure is a result of many years of dereliction of duty, negligence, ineptitude, corruption and intentional subverting of legal obligations and controls by our Senior (and not so senior) Public Servants. These are the very Officers paid to protect and manage public monies to deliver services and development.
29.6 These concerted and intentional failures extend to every level of Government from National to District level and every arm, entity and Department of Government including public bodies, Provincial Governments, companies, statutory bodies and individuals who may either hold public monies for or on behalf of the State or a third party or are otherwise accountable for the control of public monies, property and stores.
29.7 The failure and collapse is so complete that it extends to remote areas of Government operations such as Hospital Boards, artifacts and State property, Commodity Boards, academic institutions and companies or commercial ventures in which the Government is either shareholder or investor.
29.8 This failure by Senior Officers of Government (who could rightly be regarded as our brightest and best) must be a measure of profound National concern and a matter of priority for any Government.
29.9 Immediate and thoroughgoing steps must be taken to ensure that the situation in 2004 is repaired, systems rebuilt and competent oversight, enforcement and management be instituted and maintained.
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SECTION “B” – THE AUDIT REPORT ON THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS 2004 – FINDINGS OF THE AUDITOR GENERAL.
30. GOVERNMENT RECEIPTS
30.1 All Government Receipts are deposited into a single Consolidated Revenue Fund while payments are to be made out of the same Fund in accordance with the annual Appropriation Act and other subsequent Revised Appropriation Acts passed by the Parliament from time to time.
30.2 Pursuant to the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and the Financial Instructions promulgated thereunder, Trust Accounts are established and operated within the Trust Fund. The total of the balances in the various Trust Accounts represent the Trust Funds.
30.3 The Statements report, inter alia:
• Appropriation of funds to be available to be received and expended by the State;
• Receipts and Expenditure for the year;
• Cash position at the end of the year;
• Borrowings and investments by the State; and
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• Losses by the State.
30.4 There are legislative, instructional and regulatory controls over the compilation, contents and submissions of the financial records and accounts from all levels of Government and these safeguards are intended to ensure the records and the Public Accounts Financial Statements are complete and accurate.
30.5 The Auditor General records that:
“Compliance with relevant Legislation is of paramount importance in safeguarding the State’s cash resources”.
30.6 This Committee accepts that Statement as correct but would add that compliance with relevant Legislation is of paramount importance in ensuring that the Public Accounts are accurate, complete and reliable.
30.7 As we have said previously in this Report, the Public Accounts for the year 2004 are neither reliable nor complete. This is in large part the result of failure at all levels of governance to comply with statutory requirements.
30.8 It is axiomatic that to achieve the necessary assurance of the regularity and propriety of Government financial transactions, they must be regular and timely reconciliation of balances
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shown in cashbooks with those of the respective bank accounts. 30.9 For proper control, cashbook balances should be reconciled promptly with the Sub-Ledger balances, bank statements and where possible, reconciled to the records of revenue and expenditure statements produced by the Finance Department to ensure full accounting.
30.10 This Committee finds that none of these requirements have been complied with at virtually any level or arm of Government.
30.11 One major problem would appear to be that the PGAS system and TMS system cannot communicate. Accounting practices of the past are not appropriate and are causing statements to be distorted and making it difficult to understand what should be included and what should not be. Moreover, the system should be able to be understood by all users of the information which it generates.
30.12 As we have already indicated the Public Accounts and the material from which they are compiled in the year 2004 would not be easily comprehensible to persons who might use the Public Accounts.
The Auditor General reports as follows:
“I understand that staff from this Office and the Senior Department of Finance staff have agreed to
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establish a group to examine what is required to improve the reporting of the Public Account and to set priorities that will enable problems to be made in the near future. These and the adoption of the points for the years 2005 and 2006 as set out in Paragraph 16 of this Report should see a dramatic change for the better”.
30.13 It is the intention of this Committee to examine 2006 and 2007 Audit Reports in detail to ascertain whether any improvement can be found in the treatment of receipts.
31. Budgetary Results 2004.
(a) Receipts [K’000]: Performance for the year 2003 and 2004 was:
Year Appropriation Actual Excess/Shortfall % 2004 4,532,121 5,803,779 1,271,658 28 2003 4,387,437 4,279,613 [107,825] 2
(b) Payments [K’000]
Year Appropriation Actual Under % [Excess] payments over appropriation 2004 4,632,700 5,817,095 [1,184,395] 26 2003 4,569,059 4,171,406 397,653 9
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31.1 The Committee notes that as a result of deficit budgeting for the year 2004, actual performance for the year has resulted in an excess in payments over receipts by K 13,316,600.00 a net deficit of K 100,579,000.
31.2 The Auditor General makes the following finding:
“However, there has been expenditure of K 1,184,395,000 in excess over Appropriation enacted by the Parliament. This is reduced by K1.017 billion loan repayments that were offset by new loans at a significantly reduced interest rate leaving an effective misappropriation (Committee emphasis) of K170 million.”
31.3 This Committee addressed questions concerning the finding of misappropriation to the Head of the Department of Finance (Mr Gabriel Yer) and the Head of the Department Treasury, (Mr Simon Tosali), but received no information, explanation or evidence at all.
31.4 The Committee is concerned at the finding of the Auditor General and strongly urges the Parliament to pursue this matter and ascertain exactly why this result was obtained.
31.5 The only conclusion open to this Committee is that there has been a complete disregard of law and the Constitution with a deliberate and intentional misappropriation of very large sums of public money.
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Appropriation Act (National Parliament)
31.6 In 2004 a Revised Appropriation for the National Parliament under the Recurrent Budget was K 57,000,000. This was correctly disclosed in Statement “B”.
31.7 This amount was fully expended, however a further amount of K 270,000 treated as expenditure and credited to the Cash Adjustment Account and described as “difference on grants for National Parliament” is effectively an account payable.
31.8 The sum of K270,000 was paid in 2005 and a similar observation was made in 2003 Audit where an over- expenditure of K 1,400,000 incurred out of the National Parliament allocation of K 50 million was transferred and disclosed in the Cash Adjustment Account and used 2004 funds to settle.
31.9 The Auditor General finds, and this Committee accepts, that these transactions are not in accordance with the Accounting Policy Notes 1 of Statement “A” and are illegal as Appropriations lapse at the 31st December every year.
31.10 The Department of Finance has responded as follows:
“Finance notes that only Recurrent Appropriations lapse at year end and not Development
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Appropriations. If the monies payable to Parliament relate to Development Appropriations then there is no breach of the Appropriation Provisions”.
31.11 This Committee sought submission and advice and assistance from the Department of Finance in regard to this matter. We have received nothing and therefore accept the Auditor General’s findings.
Consolidated Revenue Fund
Net Results – Consolidated Revenue Fund [K’000]
(a) Receipts [K’000]
Year Revenue for Expenditure Net surplus the year for the year [Deficit] K’000 K’000 K’000 2004 5,803,779 5,817,095 [13,316] 2003 4,279,612 4,171,406 108,207
31.12 The total receipts and expenditures for the year 2004 totaled K 5,803,779,000 and K 5,817,095,000 respectively. This resulted in a net deficit of K 13,316,000 compared to a surplus of K 108,207,000 for the previous years.
31.13 However, prudent repayment and refinancing of debt levels has significantly reduced the debt service payments and saved the State approximately K 212 million.
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SUMMARY – CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND: 2004.
Year Brought Budgetary net Accumulated Forward Surplus/Deficit Surplus/Deficit Balance K’000 carry forward K’000 K’000 2004 -223,445 -13,316 -236,761 2003 -328,604 108,207 -220,397
31.14 In 2004 a nett deficit of K 13,316,000 increased the accumulated deficit balance of K 223,444,836 at the end of 2003 to K 236,760,462 at the end of 2004.
31.15 Statement “A” correctly records this result. However, reconciliations between receipt records maintained by two Departments and the amounts disclosed in Statement “J” reveal significant differences and this Committee has no doubt that situation pertains across the entire span of all arms, entities and levels of Government.
31.16 On a random test basis IRC Taxation, IRC Customs and the Department of Lands and Physical Planning were examined against the Statement “J” contents with the following result:
Department Departmental Statement Difference Records “J” K K K IRC Taxation 2,223,705,012 2,212,211,803 11,493,209 IRC Customs 1,002,179,978 996,530,250 -5,649,728
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Department 16,436,702 18,254,134 1,817,432 of Lands and Physical Planning
Total Net 3,242,321,692 3,226,996,187 -15,325,505 Difference
31.17 The Auditor General finds that these discrepancies indicate a lack of control over the reconciliation practices of the Department of Finance and/or Treasury and the Departments concerned. We accept this conclusion.
31.18 This Committee is concerned that firstly in the case of the IRC discrepancy, K 17 million has either not been brought to account or has been incorrectly posted.
31.19 This Committee also concludes from this and other inquiries, that this inability or failure to reconcile almost any receipt, records, accounts or ledgers across the entire span of governance shows a profound and basic collapse of accountability. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by this Government.
The Trust Fund
31.20 Statement “A” and “C” show total Trust Fund Receipts and payments in 2004 as K 700,581,301 and K 653,898,637 respectively. This has resulted in an excess of receipts over payments (a surplus) of K 46,682,664. As at the 31st
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December 2004, the balance of the Trust Fund was K 368,156,686.
31.21 The Auditor’s examination of Statement “C” was undertaken on a sample basis, and included investigation into the establishment and operation of Trust Accounts, verification of balances and statutory compliance.
31.22 The opening balance of the Trust Accounts was adjusted by K 105.551 million and this is described as a correction of accounting errors but charged Trust Accounts rather than the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
31.23 This Committee finds that Statement “A” does not show the restatement – and it should. The error or failure was the subject of inquiry to the Department of Finance but we received no reply or assistance in this regard.
31.24 The Auditor General reports that major weaknesses were observed and certain constraints were applied to the Audit as a result of:
31.25 In almost all instances Trust Ledger balances for the Trust Accounts with Bank Accounts reflected in Statement “C” could not be verified to the end of the Financial Year, in the absence of bank reconciliations.
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31.26 Most of the monthly bank reconciliation statements received from some of the agencies were not properly filed and retained and no evidence was received to confirm that follow up action was made to demand the monthly bank reconciliations due from agencies.
31.27 This Committee accepts the finding of the Auditor General in this regard.
31.28 These and other inquiries have shown a consistent, constant and thorough-going failure in all agencies to reconcile bank accounts on a monthly basis and/or to submit that material. This is a most basic accountancy tool which public servants seem incapable of carrying out.
31.29 The Committee is heartened by a comment made by the Department of Finance to the Auditor General as follows:
“Finance has commenced a programme aimed at dealing with the non-lodgment of trust bank reconciliations by Departments, who are responsible under the PF(M)A to prepare and lodge the reconciliations. Finance has the goal of collecting monthly bank reconciliations for all trusts during the 2007 year”.
31.30 This Committee intends to reconsider this particular issue for the Financial Years 2006 and 2007 in 2009. We expect to see a considerable improvement. However, some of our inquiries
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in 2008 for that year showed no improvement whatsoever in a number of Departments not reconciling accounts.
31.32 This Committee sought advice on the subject of bank reconciliations from the Department of Finance in this and other Inquiries.
31.33 We have received no response from the Department of Finance. This information would have been of considerable assistance to this Committee in the preparation of this Report and conduct of this Inquiry but our requests were treated with disregard.
31.34 This Committee can only conclude that the Department of Finance either does not wish to carry out its lawful obligation of co-operating with the Public Accounts Committee or have no explanation for its failure to enforce the requirements of law and to require monthly bank reconciliations to be submitted.
NON MAINTENANCE OF TRUST REGISTER
31.35 No register of Trust Instruments was kept by Government and as a result the Auditor General cannot confirm that Statement “C” contained all the details of Trust Accounts approved and operated.
31.36 The Committee cannot understand how the Department of Finance, the Head of that Department or Government in
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general can know what Trust Accounts exist, the terms of the Trust Instruments or who controls the Trusts. This dereliction of duty is the fault of the Department of Finance.
31.37 This failure would explain why this Committee has been unable to ascertain how many Trust Accounts exist, who controls them or the amount of money vested and held in these Trust Accounts.
31.38 How this situation has been allowed to occur is beyond the comprehension of this Committee. No response, answer, policy or information was forthcoming from the Department of Finance to this Committee and so far as the Committee can ascertain, nobody in the Department of Finance either knows or cares what Trust Instruments may or may not exist and therefore what accounts may or may not exist or the state of those accounts.
31.39 This Committee finds that the failure to control, understand or have any register of Trust Instruments is inexplicable and a profound failure on the part of the Department of Finance.
31.40 This is a matter which must be addressed immediately in order that some control can be brought over the operation of Trust Instruments, Trust Accounts, trust monies and Trustees.
Trust Fund Balances that could not be verified by the Auditor General
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31.41 In the case of Trust Accounts operated through bank accounts, details of the Bank’s branches with which the accounts were operated together with Bank Account numbers were simply not available to the Auditor General. As a result, the Auditor General had to spend time trying to compile this bank account and bank account numbers.
31.42 This is a failure of most basic kind by the Department of Finance. It has resulted in Trust Accounts being held, maintained or existing in secrecy and operating with no apparent controls or oversight whatsoever. It is a recipe for misconduct and, in the opinion of this Committee, that is precisely what has occurred.
31.43 The maintenance, command and control of Trust Accounts is a fundamental role of the Department of Finance vested in it by the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995.
31.44 This Department cannot maintain even a Register of Trust Instruments and cannot produce records of Trust Fund Balances. What does the Department actually do? Why does it exist and how has this situation been allowed to continue for so long?
31.45 Once again, this Committee could obtain no information or responses from the Department of Finance on this subject, in either this inquiry or a second inquiry conducted contemporaneously into Trust Accounts
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31.46 The Auditor General was unable to identify 44 accounts with an aggregate balance of K 84,944,386. Those accounts were: See Table “A”.
Incorrect list of Trust Accounts.
31.47 Two of the Trust Accounts listed as “General Trust without Bank Accounts” were found to be operating through bank accounts.
3148 The Auditor General was unable to confirm that Trust Accounts listed under this category were in fact operated without a bank account.
31.49 This is very basic information which, as a result of the Department of Finance failure, cannot be ascertained.
Trust Accounts with overdrawn closing balances
31.50 The Auditor General has found five Trust Accounts overdrawn by a total of K 3,961,112.
31.51 How a Trust Account can be overdrawn is beyond the understanding of this Committee and clearly shows a complete failure of control, command, accountability and responsibility which it is the job of the Department of Finance to enforce. It also shows a failure by Trustees to meet their most basic obligations.
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31.52 The Committee is particularly concerned when it is seen that Trust Fund Suspense Account No. 2 is one of those Accounts operated in deficit. Deficit in a Trust Account must mean (at best) negligence by a Trustee and/or illegal conduct.
31.53 Whatever the situation, breach of trustee obligations may very well visit personal liability on Trustees and overspending trust funds – which is impossible – is a very good illustration of the depths of failure of public fiscal management and accountability in this country.
31.54 This is a matter which must be addressed urgently by National Parliament. This Committee will make certain recommendations in respect of Trust Accounts later in this Report.
Trust Accounts with no closing balances but bank balance sighted by the Auditor General
31.55 Statement “C” of the Statement of Public Accounts 2004 shows 17 Trust Accounts with a nil balance but which are still disclosing a balance in those accounts. The balance of those accounts was confirmed as at the 31st December 2004 at K 5,043,435.
31.56 The Accounts were:
Account A/C # Bank Balance Receipts Payments State- Bank 2004 Name 31.12.03 (K) (K) ment “C” (K) (K) 31.12.04 (K) State 100045 BSP 460 5,298 -5,758 0 465.47
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Solicitors 1888 Trust Accounts Land 435163 BPNG 24,681 179,899 -204,580 0 24,681.58 Acquisition 32 Trust Account Police 106503 ANZ 973 2,092 -3,065 0 2,521.60 Messing 6 Trust Account Mining 100058 BSP 167,215 2,467 -169,682 0 164,747.55 Memorandu 7061 m or Agreement Project Vanimo- 100058 BSP 0 6,093,07 -6,093,079 0 870,071.25 Green 5261 9 District Developme nt Trust North 100058 BSP 0 0 0 0 2,478.00 Bougainville 4434 District Developme nt Trust Henganofi 100058 BSP 534 7 -541 0 539.65 District 5440 Developme nt Trust Sinasina- 100093 BSP 931 0 -931 0 160.62 Yonggamug 0846 i Dist.Develo pment Trust Tech.Assist 435663 BSP 0 600,258 -600,258 0 100.06 ance 52 Facility for Inst.Stre Monitoring 100016 BSP 0 0 0 0 201,477.71 & 2728 Evaluation Sys.Dev.Gr ant Central 114109 ANZ 5,510 50,486 -55,996 0 71,140.58 Fund Board 58 of Managemen t Road 100058 BSP 5,926,00 13,159,9 – 0 2,916,963.13 Maint.&Reh 5380 59 19,085,95 ab.Proj.(Go 9
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PNG- Counterpart ) National 100097 BSP 0 0 0 0 555,506.00 Disaster 1420 Center Operational TA Talasea, 100095 BSP 0 0 0 0 252.28 Hoskins,Ka 5977 piura and Ania TA PNG 100060 BSP 0 0 0 0 117,218.13 Education 5632 Payroll Proj. GoPNG Kiunga 100058 BSP 0 0 0 0 475.27 Lake 5721 Murray National 100057 BSP 90,721 0 -90,721 0 114,635.73 Emergency 3219 Fund Total 5,043,434.6 1
31.57 Once again, this finding bespeaks failure on the part of the Department of Finance to keep virtually any control whatsoever over Trust Accounts containing public money.
31.58 Why were these Accounts not inspected or reported accurately and correctly?
31.59 The Committee tried to ascertain the reasons, but the Department of Finance refused or failed to answer the Committees questioning.
Closure of bank accounts prior to the 31st December 2004.
31.60 The Auditor General finds 13 Accounts with closing balances totaling K 1,937,179 disclosed in Statement “C”. However,
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the Auditor also found that the accounts were closed prior to 31st December 2004. Those accounts were:
A/C # Bank Bank 2004 BALANCE RECEIPTS PAYMENTS BALANCE 31.12.03 31.12.04 A/C Closed 1000586570 BSP 16/04/04 284,653 0 -15,259 269,394 A/C Closed 1000586571 BSP 16/04/04 15,259 0 0 15,259 A/C Closed 1000586569 BSP 16/04/04 176,151 176,409 0 352,560 A/C Closed 1000586568 BSP 16/04/04 915,982 0 0 915,982 A/C Closed 1000586573 BSP 07/10/03 25,764 0 0 25,764 A/C Closed 845437 ANZ 07.06.04 169 40,069 0 40,238 A/C Closed 1000584063 BSP 18/11/03 44,841 0 0 44,841 A/C Closed 1000584261 BSP 21/10/04 3,774,989 2,350,400 -5,882,987 242,402 1000587288 BSP A/C Closed 20,257 0 0 20,257 43116514 BPNG A/C Closed 3,306 0 0 3,306 A/C Closed 1000584070 BSP 14/05/04 2,422 0 0 2,422 A/C Closed 1000584072 BSP 14/05/04 1,368 2,356 0 3,724 A/C Closed 1000584074 BSP 14/05/04 1,030 0 0 1,030 1,937,179
31.61 This situation has been seen by this Committee in other Inquiries.
31.62 Once again, the Department of Finance – the responsibility of which is to manage and oversight the control and handling of public monies through Trust Accounts, has failed either to close the account properly or to remit the balance of monies from the Trust Accounts to Consolidated Revenue.
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31.63 We cannot explain this situation as we received no assistance from the Department of Finance in this issue.
31.64 Therefore, the only findings this Committee can make is that a failure to carry out the duties vested in the Department of Finance has, amongst other things, limited the scope and ability of the Auditor General to carry out his work.
Differences between Statement “C” and bank confirmations.
31.65 The Auditor General sought confirmation from Banks in respect of 39 Accounts. The confirmation did not agree with the closing balances reflected in Statement “C” which in many instances were considerably less than the actual amount of money held in the Bank Account. In some cases, the balance recorded in Statement “C” was millions of kina less than the money actually in the bank account.
31.66 If the Auditor General can ascertain the information from the Banks why could the Department of Finance not do the same?
31.67 What was intended for the excess money? How can any Government possibly place reliance in its Public Accounts if such a simple matter is incorrectly submitted to it by its agents?
31.68 The Public Accounts Committee sought information from the Department of Finance on this issue. We received no assistance at all.
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Balances in bank but not in Statement “C” – no Trust Code confirmation.
31.69 The Auditor General finds that 46 Bank Accounts with an aggregate balance of K 48, 021, 136 “appear to be in the nature of Trust Accounts” which were not disclosed in Statement “C”. They were:
See Table “B”.
31.70 This information was apparently available to the Auditor General but not to the Department of Finance. This Committee concludes that the Department of Finance did not know or care that its reports and records were defective or that such a large amount of public money held in “Trust Accounts” was not accounted for or recorded.
31.71 This is a very serious failure and one that needs to be immediately addressed.
31.72 There has been a dereliction of duty in the management of these public funds in the Department of Finance – made particularly serious by the fact that these monies were allocated to and apparently held in Trust Accounts managed at the apparent discretion of unelected and unrepresentative public servants.
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31.73 Why were these Trust Accounts missing and, if they are not Trust Accounts, what are they? Do they have Trust Instruments? What is the money being used for? Where are the records of expenditure? Have the Trust Funds been received or expended lawfully? None of these questions can be answered by this Committee or by the Auditor General because of lack of assistance from the Department of Finance.
31.74 It is quite apparent to this Committee that the Department of Finance either has no answers and no idea why these accounts are not recorded or that the failure was intentional. Whatever the reason the Department has chosen not to co- operate with either the Auditor General or this Committee or furnish information or explanation for these findings.
Nil movements and nil balance Trust Accounts.
31.75 One Hundred and Forty Eight (148) Trust Accounts in Statement “C” shows zero open balances with neither receipts nor payments being recorded.
31.76 These Trust Accounts remain open for no apparent reason and the Department of Finance appears to have taken no steps to either close them or review the necessity to maintain the accounts.
31.77 Once again, the Committee cannot advance this issue as no assistance was received from the Department of Finance on the issue.
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Opening balances exhausted.
31.78 The Auditor General identifies 56 Trust Accounts in respect of which the opening balances together with any receipts have been expended in full – leaving zero balances. However once again, the Department of Finance has apparently not reviewed the need for these accounts or closed them where appropriate.
31.79 Once again, the failure is unexplained and this Committee cannot advance this issue as no information or assistance was forthcoming from the Department of Finance despite requests for explanations.
Receipts expended fully during the year.
31.80 The Auditor General finds 9 accounts with zero opening balances – the receipts which totaled K 2,572,540 having been received and fully expended.
31.81 Once again, the Department of Finance should review the need for these accounts to continue and close them if they are unnecessary or if their purpose has expired.
Lack of monitoring of Trust receipts and payments.
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31.82 The Auditor General concludes his examination of Statement “C” in the following terms:
“The Department of Finance needs to investigate and confirm that the nature of the receipts and payments are in accord to the Trust Instruments, to continue its efforts to identify all Trust Accounts that are operated illegally outside the Trust Accounts”.
31.83 As an example, the Auditor General examined two Trust Accounts, the balances of which disclosed in Statement “C”, do not agree with the confirmations received: . Per Per Forest Trust Account Name BSP Bank A/c Statement Authority’s Statement “C” No. “C” records understated by K K K Reforestation Levy Trust 1000584586 1,431,703 10,376,693 8,944,990 Account Timber Royalties Trust 1000585566 Nil 5,537,087 5,537,087 Account Total 1,431,703 15,913,780 14,482,077
31.84 Presumably these discrepancies were found on a random testing basis and, given the chaotic state of Trust Account management and record keeping the situation is probably much more widespread.
31.85 How these Trust Accounts could be recorded so inaccurately is beyond our understanding. The only explanation must be a failure by the Department of Finance and by the National
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Forest Authority to maintain accurate records and to submit them in a timely fashion.
31.86 This situation prevails across the entire span of the public service and has allowed Papua New Guinea to reach a point where its public accounts are disclaimed and its system of public accountability, handling of and accounting for public monies, property and stores has failed.
31.87 The Auditor General makes further comments concerning the Notes to Statement “C” on the Public Accounts made by the Department of Finance.
31.88 First, Note 1 records interest earned on monies held in the Trust Fund. The Statement reports the balance of interest held in the Trust at the year end totaling K1.650 million. The Auditor General finds that this amount is not sufficient and is understated.
31.89 The Auditor General recommends that the Department of Finance review the processes to determine the accuracy of the amount and advise Auditor General of the results of that review. This Committee endorses that recommendation and will give the Directives accordingly. We intend to revisit this issue when we consider the 2006 Public Accounts.
31.90 Secondly, the Auditor General finds that the Notes do not indicate that the list of Trust Funds is incomplete and the balances shown are bank balances, for the simple reason that agencies are not submitting financial records or reports for
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each and every Trust Account as required by law – and the Department of Finance does not enforce this requirement.
31.91 This finding encapsulates the failure of public accountability insofar as trust funds are concerned and the apparent passive acceptance of this failure by the Department of Finance.
31.92 It appears to this Committee that neither Government agencies nor the Department of Finance know or care whether records are delivered and neither of those entities have the ability, expertise or competence to fulfill or enforce this legal requirement.
31.93 This Committee reiterates that the accounting requirements imposed on agencies and the Department of Finance are simple and not onerous – at least insofar as Trust Accounting Reconciliations and Returns are concerned. These requirements are also mandatory.
31.94 Yet, not one single entity of Government appears capable of making those records and the Department of Finance has completely failed to follow up and enforce the law – even in respect of Trust Accounts administered by the Department of Finance itself.
31.95 Information received by this Committee shows that this situation still prevails as at December 2008.
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31.96 Statement “A” of the Public Accounts records the General Ledger Cashbook Balances as at the 31st December 2004.
31.97 Movements in the Bank Account Balances are updated monthly and documentary evidence consisting of Bank Statement balances, Confirmation Certificates and Bank Reconciliations provided by the various agencies, arms and entities of Government which operate the various bank accounts.
31.98 It is axiomatic that the contents of Statement “A” will only be as accurate as the primary documentation from which the Statement is compiled.
31.99 It is apparent to this Committee that in the absence of accurate, timely and detailed accounts and records submitted by various agencies, arms and entities of Government, that Statement “A” has been heavily qualified by the Auditor General. This qualification is proper and accepted by the Committee.
31.100 In 2004, Statement “A” showed that funds totaling K 173,633,032 were overdrawn against the Bank Accounts maintained with the Bank of Papua New Guinea.
31.101 This represented an increase of K 20,630,754 when compared with the previous year’s overdrawn funds of K 153,002,278. The comparison of the closing balances as of the 31st December 2004 compared with the previous years closing balances shows:
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Account Description 2004 [K] 2003 [K] FCB-RPM Account 646696 2243443 Waigani Public Account 72857 -25776844 Public Curators Bank Account 31036 268865 Land Acquisition Trust Account 0 24681 Technical Assistance Management 100 100 Facility STABEX Guarantee Trust Account 47654624 47654624 Public Sector Training Project 1400 56868 [IBRD] Temporary Advance – BPNG -1307190 -25585410 World Bank Land Mobilisation 52154 52154 Project [Counterpart Fund] Central Province RPM Account 1152181 786288 Central Province Operating 738790 1104020 Account Cash Book Balance Drawing Accounts [Previously described as 222675880 153831067 Un-presented Cheques] Total 173,633,032 153,002,278
31.102 The figures contained in the Table (above) show a mix of Cashbook balances and Bank balance. With the exception of the unpresented cheques, totaling K 222,675,880, the correct presentation is to show the Cashbook balances.
31.103 The Auditor General has expressed concern with the lack of compliance with proper cash reporting practices and policies. This is not the first time that that Statement has been made by the Auditor General but the Public Accounts are still presented in 2004 in a manner which is not reflective of proper practice.
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31.104 The explanation for each of the items in the Table are:
FCB – RPM Account – Balance K 646,696.
• The Bank Confirmation received shows a nil year end balance in 2004 – however Note 13.1 discloses K 646,696 as the closing balance.
• The Department of Finance has explained the disclosure of K 646,696 represented the Cash Book balance of the account.
Waigani Public Account – Balance K 72,857 Dr
• The Bank balance was nil as at September to 31st December 2004. However the K 72,857 represents the 2004 closing Cash Book figure. The temporary advance of K1.307 million is not taken into account when performing the bank reconciliation. The Waigani Public Account disclosure should be K1.234 million overdrawn.
Public Curators Bank Account Balance
• The Account has a bank balance of K31,36 as of the 31st December 2004 but the Cash Book figure should be shown instead of the balance. Land Acquisition Trust Account – Balance – Nil
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• The figure of K 24,681 disclosed as the 2003 closing balance has been absorbed during the year 2004 and reported a nil balance as at year end.
STABEX Guarantee Trust Account – Balance – K 47,654,624
• This Trust Account is a deposit account with the Bank of Papua New Guinea and is used as collateral by the Bank when guarantees are provided to commercial banks that give loans to Commodity Boards to maintain price stabilization.
• While the figure of K 47,654,624 agrees with Bank confirmation figures, no interest has been paid on the Funds since the opening of the Account.
• The Auditor General recommended that the Department of Finance should establish a policy in respect of accounts maintained and of interest accruing on deposits.
• The Committee agrees with this recommendation and has made comment in respect of this and other Trust Accounts elsewhere in this Report.
Public Sector Training – Balance – K 1,400
• This is not a Cashbook figure and is therefore incorrect. Temporary Advances – Balance – K 1,307,190
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• By Section 224(4) of the Central Bank Act, the Minister for Finance is empowered to accept temporary advances from the Bank of Papua New Guinea to assist in funding the Public Account.
• In 2003, the advance was K 25,585,410 and this was reduced to K 1,307,190 in 2004. • This advance is to facilitate an automatic Overdraft when the Waigani Public Account is about to become overdrawn. As a result, the Waigani Public Account should never have a negative bank balance. In view of such an arrangement when reconciling a Bank Account, the advance should be considered as part of the Bank balance.
• The Auditor General concludes that this amount should not be included in the Bank balances disclosed as only Cashbook balances should be accounted for and this Committee agrees. This means that the Bank Reconciliation for the Waigani Public Account has not been performed correctly. This is a serious failure.
World Bank Land Mobilisation Project Counterpart Funding – Balance K 52,154
• The balance held in this Account seemingly receives no interest. The Department of Finance once again has not ensured that interest is brought to account from the
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inception of the Account and this Committee was unable to establish if interest is being paid at all.
• Like so many other Trust Accounts, the Department of Finance has no apparent policy and no oversight of interest payable on such accounts. If such policies exist, the Department did not produce them to this Committee.
Drawing Accounts – K 222,675,880
• The total of all unpresented cheques in all the various Departmental Drawing Bank Accounts as at the 31st December 2004 is K 222,675,880 – See Note 13.1. This is an increase of K 68,844,813 from the 2003 of K 153,917,215
• The Auditor General reports that this figure was not supported by any detailed listing of what comprised the figure to enable audit verification.
• Once again, detailed audit checking of a sample of 19 Departments year end unpresented cheque figures as shown in the respective year end Bank Reconciliations, have noted significant differences between Departmental records and those included in Statement “A” which require to be resolved in the preparation of the 2005 Public Account Financial Statement. • The results of the Audit are:
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Department Cash book Un-presented Un-presented balance at cheques as cheques as 31/12/04 per Finance per [Department’s Statement Department’s record] “A” records K K K Agriculture and 2,525,866 -174,000 162437 Livestock Health 115,753,081 37,474,000 3,826,598 Police -312,426 813,000 1,190,476 Education 16,146,025 -960,000 3,378,071 Correctional Services -2,932,859 261,000 739,544 Personnel -19,528,291 -1,193,000 2,784,225 Management Lands and Physical -750,050 91,000 127,474 Planning Transport -765,234 -104,000 150,793 Prime Minister’s -2,700,666 -2,386,000 2,700,306 Provincial Affairs -8,939,602 903,000 1,235,438
Commerce and 1,429,869 100,000 106,609 Industry Attorney Generals 5,084,818 -1,441,000 1,412,413 Environment and -511,288 58,000 151,433 Conservation. Home Affairs and -6,604,155 -218,000 130,202 Youth Electoral Commission -5,200,000 6,660,950 Petroleum and Energy -7,581,275 428,000 1,743,456 Higher Education -15,491,379 -1,279,000 1,694,828 Mining -1,128,683 13,000 580,87 Finance and Treasury 284,157,075 – 33,150,000 136,269,538 Grand Total 346,521,282 -18,955,200 16,5045,778
31.105 The Public Accounts Committee has carefully considered the responses of the Department of Finance given to the Office of the Auditor General. The Auditor General reports the responses as follows:
“The unpresented cheque balances for various Departmental Drawing Bank Accounts represents
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normal situations where the Departments Drawing Accounts:
o Were debited and in an overdrawn position when the cheques were presented that BPNG stop the debits on the Bank Statements awaits to be reimbursed by WPA Bank Account so when reimbursed, the debits get cleared reporting with nil balance.
o The positive unpresented cheque balances for various Departments Drawing Bank Accounts represent fraudulent cheques presented at BPNG and honored through the respective Departments Drawing Bank Accounts. Although these cheques were honored and appeared on the Department’s Drawing Account through DDA Bank Statements, they were not recorded in the Department’s Cashbook and Ledgers as they were raised outside the system fraudulently.
31.106 This extraordinary admission, if it is correct, is confirmation that the accounts and records are not maintained on a Cash Receipt and Payments basis and admits to the payment of fraudulent cheques – which by any measure, suggests a widespread fraud committed on the State with immunity and impunity.
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31.107 The Auditor General further reports:
“This explanation raises the issue of why the Department of Finance and the appropriate Departments have not pursued parties involved in fraudulent activities, including the Banks, for restitution”.
The Department of Finance has changed the total unpresented cheques figure (now disclosed as Cashbook balances of Drawing Accounts) three times during the course of Audit and has submitted K 222,675,880 as its final figure.
In the absence of any reconciliation prepared and/or presented for Audit by the Public Accounts Division, it was not possible to verify the figures or to determine whether the amount of K 222,675,880 is correct or is an amount used to balance the accounts”.
This Committee accepts those comments.
31.108 This is a serious finding and one which is ample testament to the inability of the Department of Finance to competently fulfill its mandate and strongly suggests that the Public Accounts are amended in the interests of a bottom line balance rather than accurately reporting the true state of affairs to Government.
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31.109 How an enormous amount of Public Money can be varied or altered to the point where it is of virtually no reliability and a bland admission of fraudulent activity on the State can be made by the very Department which is responsible for controlling public accountability and the use of public funds, money and stores is yet another example of failure by the Department of Finance.
31.110 This Committee goes further. The failure, incompetence and ineptitude manifest by the Department of Finance in 2004 is merely a reflection of virtually every other Department, arm, entity or agency of Government and this is an extremely serious situation.
31.111 Clearly, Papua New Guinea needs assistance on an urgent basis. Without foreshadowing Committee dealings, the 2006 Part 1 Report of the Auditor General for that financial year shows no improvement and we expect the same to be the case in 2007.
31.112 This Committee proposes to make some recommendations and referrals which may assist the process of rebuilding of fiscal accountability, later in this Report.
Bank of South Pacific Limited
31.113 The Auditor General has conducted an examination of public money held in the Bank of South Pacific Limited.
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31.114 As at 31st December 2004 184 Trust Bank Accounts were held at the BSP with a positive balance of K343,649,027 held in that Bank. The accounts were:
No. of Account 2004 2003 2002 2001 Accounts Description K K K K 13 Members of 634 16,733 23,781 46,582 Parliament District Development1 1 19 Provincial 90,297 41713 16,589 -29,086 Treasuries and 19 RPM Account Balances 170 All Other Accounts 252,718 111,700 111,700 86,469 184 Total 343,649,027 202,668 152,070 103,965
31.115 The Auditor General was clearly able to identify K 4,724,720 as being represented by the balances of Receiver of Public Monies Accounts from 19 provinces.
31.116 The balance of K 85,572,280 for the Provincial Treasuries Bank Accounts is a mix of Provincial Government and National Government Funds and neither the Auditor nor the Department of Finance could accurately trace the State’s share.
31.117 Tracing of accounts and monies are the most basic of Trustee obligations and one which the Department of Finance should strictly enforce.
31.118 Remittances of Provincial Government Grants are recognized as expenditures and disclosed in Statements “B” and “L” of
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the Public Accounts Financial Statements. Provincial Governments Account for these funds as “National Government Grants Revenue” and at the end of the year, they form part of the Revenue Statement of the Provincial Government’s Financial Statement.
31.119 The Auditor General finds (and this Committee agrees) that to account for the year end Bank balances of K 85,572,280 for the Provincial Treasuries Operating Account in Note 13.2 of the Statement “A” is incorrect, and amounts to double accounting of these amounts. As a result, Statement “A” is overstated to that extent.
31.120 The Auditor General notes that this issue has arisen in Audit Reports since 1997 and again during the 2004 Audit.
31.121 Further, all balance of deposits in the Provinces RPM Bank Accounts are to be remitted to the Waigani Public Account but 18 Provinces have not done so as at the 31st December 2004.
31.122 The Department of Finance appears to have finally taken heed of the Auditor General’s Report. The Department has reported to the Auditor General:
“Finance has now prepared instructions for the Bank of South Pacific that require the Bank to automatically sweep RPM Account Bank balances into the WPA on a fortnightly basis to ensure collections are transferred in accordance with the requirements.”
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31.123 This Committee intends to reconsider this issue in 2005 and 2006 when it considers the Part 1 Reports for those relevant financial years.
Finance Operating Account
31.124 Various adjustments were identified by the Auditor General to the 2003 Closing Balances of the eight types of Advance Accounts disclosed in that years Statement “A” under Note 5.1.
31.125 In 2004 the Closing Balance was stated as a payable balance of K 46,044,235. All balances of the four areas of Finance Officers Advances, the Works Receivables and the Special Pays Accounts Balances for 2004 were adjusted in 2003 to correct fundamental errors in accounting and described as being made to correct errors in past years. These accounts have balances in 2004 as disclosed in Note 6.1 of Statement “A”.
Area Finance Officers – Konedobu, Lae, Rabaul and Goroka;
31.126 The Auditor General reports that corrected balances carried forward, subsequent to adjustments, were to be reviewed with the objective of writing off the amounts.
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31.127 However, the balances have actually increased during 2004 which suggests that no review has taken place. The reason for this or why there are movements in the balances not disclosed by way of a Note or Account to audit – and they should have been – is unknown.
31.128 The Department of Finance response is uncharacteristically candid. The Department states:
“Problems with the existing balances of these accounts reflect a history of poor accounting practices, poor management and a lack of resources across the GOPNG Public Sector. Following further discussions with the AGO Finance now intends to undertake a comprehensive review and reconciliation of all balance sheet balances during the next year. This review will require the cooperation of all Government Departments”.
31.129 This Committee intends to revisit this issue in its Inquiries into the 2006 – 2007 Part 1 Report of the Auditor General.
Pay Roll Salaries Receivables/Payables
31.130 The Auditor General finds that the Pay Roll Salaries Receivable figure of K 537,059 was brought forward from 2003 and disclosed in Note 6.1. This amount has been
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absorbed during the year under review and a Salaries Payable figure of K 171,671 is reported as the 2004 Closing Balance.
31.131 No explanation is available as to why this Account exists or why the Account is presented as payable.
31.132 The Special Pay receivable balance was K 1,125,208 as at the end of 2003. This had increased by K 224,734 to K 1,349,942 at the end of 2004.
31.133 Again, no explanation has been provided by the Department of Finance as to why this Account exists or why the Account is presented as receivable. The amount should not be included in the Cash Balance figure.
Works Receivables Payables Clearance Account
31.134 This Account has an overdrawn balance of K 332,772 as at the 31st December 2004 but is described in Note 6 of Statement “A” as an Account Payable.
31.135 Substantial receipts and payments of K 288,768,000 and K 292,964,000 were recorded for the year 2004 in respect of this Account.
31.136 There was no explanation as to why this Account exists or why the Account is presented as payable or why it presents part of the Cashbook balance.
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31.137 The Committee sought explanation from the Department of Finance but received no response.
Bank of PNG Receivable/Payable
31.138 This Account is comprised of the Cash Adjustment Account and thirteen other accounts. Receipts for the year under review totaled K 120,664,000 and payments totaled K 65,510,000. The Auditor General makes the following comments as to the constituent accounts:
Cash Adjustment Account:
31.139 The Auditor General concludes that this Account:
“…appears to be a clearing account to bring to account Cash Transactions and to provide an avenue to balance the books. It includes some amounts due to the State and some amounts due and payable by the State. It facilitates irregular transactions and holds amounts that should be disclosed elsewhere other than these financial statements”.
31.140 The Auditor General concludes, and this Committee agrees, that the inclusion of receivables and payables in the Financial Statements is improper and distorts the Cash Balances in Statement “A”. The Auditor General provides the following Table as evidence of that distortion:
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Description K Increase in cash as per Statement 184,553,000 “D” 31/12/2004 Balance of each as per Statement 98,029,185 “A” 1/10/2004 Should equal Statement “A” 182,582,185 31/12/2004 Statement “A” Balance 131,396,224 31/12/2004 Difference Statement “A” 51,185,961 understated
“This discrepancy indicates that the Books of Account cannot be relied upon (Committee emphasis) to provide a clear and accurate account of the transactions of the State.”
31.141 The Auditor General concludes that Cash Adjustment Accounts shows a total of K 3,143,500 with due and receivable whilst K 77,417,313 was due and payable with a net payable balance of K 74,273,813.
31.142 The Auditor General concludes that these amounts should not be included in the Financial Statements – See Appendix 1 of Part 3 of the Financial Instructions. This Committee agrees.
31.143 The Department of Finance has explained this and other discrepancies or incorrect entries as “… consistent with the practices and policies adopted in the preparation of the Public Accounts for previous years”.
31.144 The plain fact is that this is a breach of lawful requirement that should not occur. Uncaring repetition of a system
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irrespective of its legality or efficacy shows inept and careless management by the Department of Finance. We intend to revisit this issue in our 2005 and 2006 Public Account Inquiries to ascertain improvement.
Overpayments required to be Refunded – K 3,143,500
31.145 These overpayments made by the Department of Finance in excess of authorized amounts due and payable to recipients/departments/organizations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, are to be refunded to Consolidated Revenue Fund and not shown as receivables. They should not form part of the Statement “A” balances.
31.146 The Auditor General finds that these long outstanding accounts may not be recovered in the foreseeable future and should be removed from the Cash Adjustment Account and disclosed in separate Statements to report receivables.
31.147 This Committee agrees with this conclusion and will make recommendations in this regard.
Differences in Grants to National Parliament
31.148 Over-expenditures by the National Parliament were transferred out of the expenditure vote in 2003 and disclosed in that year under the Cash Adjustment Account as payable. The debt was settled in January 2004 using the 2004 allocation.
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31.149 Such treatment defeats the budgetary system and the cash basis of accounting since the current year’s over expenditures were accounted as receivables and used subsequent year’s funds/appropriations to settle.
31.150 Further, K 270,000 was transferred by a Journal Entry to the National Parliament in period 13 to increase its expenditure. This resulted from a Warrant Authority issued for K 1,520,000, but only K 1,250,000 was remitted. The Warrant lapsed on the 31st December 2004 which means that the payment of K270,000 made in 2005 was illegal.
31.151 This is not the first time that the National Parliament has been the subject of such findings.
31.152 If the National Parliament cannot obey and apply the laws of fiscal accounting why should any other Department, arm or entity of Government be expected to do so?
31.153 The National Parliament must discipline itself and apply rigor in its financial and fiscal dealings to ensure that its fiscal performance is an example and that it properly and honestly accounts for monies received.
Difference to Grants to National Forest Authority – K 122,400.
31.154 An amount of K 122,400 was transferred to Vote 557 – National Forest Authority by a journal entry. This was paid to the NFA on the 10th January 2005 and overstates Statutory Institutional Grant expenditure by that amount in 2004. This
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action also defeats the cash basis of accounting principles whereby appropriations lapse at years end.
31.155 This Committee finds no explanation for this conduct. The Department of Finance provided no assistance or reasons and ignored Committee requests for information.
December Grant for NJSS and DSG Non Discretionary.
31.156 Similar treatment of K 2,303,300 of Grants due and payable to the National Judicial Services also defeats the cash basis of accounting principles.
31.157 Similar conduct in respect of DSG Non Discretionary Funds also defeats the cash basis of accounting principles.
31.158 This Committee can ascertain no reasons for these lapses and must again assume that the Department of Finance response to the Office of the Auditor General, to the effect that this is the way things have always been done, is the only explanation.
Various LLGs from different Provinces.
31.159 Funds due and payable to various Local Level Governments from different Provinces were disclosed as K 2,424,900 and K 6,229,800 instead of being combined together. This treatment distorts the cash balance figure in the Financial Statements and is unacceptable.
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Finance Miscellaneous Vote 207
31.160 An amount of K 56,227,137 charged to Mis