Case 4.1 – Rehabilitation of Education Sector Infrastructure
The Government in 2009 introduced the Rehabilitation of Education Sector Infrastructure (RESI) programme designed to address the overcrowding and infrastructure issues in schools around the country. With an allocation of K230 million in the 2009 National Budget, the RESI funds were divided up with the Highlands region receiving 62%, Momase 23%, New Guinea Islands region 8% and Southern region 7% (The National, 2009). However since its establishment, the RESI funds have been covered with allegations of corruption and misappropriation prompting authorities to launch investigations into the matter.
Increased calls for an investigation into the misappropriation of the RESI funds led to the Ombudsman Commission directing that access to funds in the Rehabilitation of Education Sector Infrastructure (RESI) trust account be stopped to enable the Ombudsman Commission to investigate alleged impropriety relating to the fund’s use (Arek, 2009). The commission’s findings revealed that K37 million which was withdrawn from the same trust account a month earlier was not used for its intended purposes.
Several schools initially received funding for the rehabilitation of infrastructure. In November 2009, a cheque for K3 million from the RESI programme was presented to the Bugandi Secondary School in Morobe Province (The National, 2009). The RESI Funds made headlines when in 2010 a school contractor was arrested and charged for misusing K4 million meant for the rehabilitation of the school’s classrooms (The National, 2010).
Other members of the public in far-flung provinces like Southern Highlands complained at the failure by their provincial governor to give K800, 000 to the North Mendi primary school in July 2010 (The National, 2010). This case follows that of the New Erima primary school incident in March 2010 when the school board chair Simon Eyork sought the assistance of the PNG Chapter of Transparency International (TIPNG, 2009). In April 2017 the NCD education secretary Sam Lora said approximately K300 million allocated under the RESI programme was allegedly misused (The National, 2017).
While the Ombudsman Commission undertook its own investigations in 2009, it is not known if anyone else was prosecuted over the theft of millions of Kina in public money parked under the RESI trust account. In 2012, the Investigation Task Force Sweep (ITFS) was introduced by the O’Neill Government to address specific issues of massive corruption especially in the two main programmes of RESI and National Agriculture Programme (NAP) later disbanded by NEC citing reasons that it was too political and had been targeting politicians when it was not authorised to do so (Faiparik, The National, 2017). There has been no public information on the outcome of the investigations into the RESI programme by the ITFS however the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel in his inaugural speech at the 2018 PNG Update at the University of Papua New Guinea and again at the Lowy Institute in Sydney stated that during his time as Planning Minister in 2012, the Sweep taskforce was investigating much of the abuse that had happened at the Department of Planning and his office had to review the method of pooling and distributing funds from the programs such as the NAP and RESI (Lowy Institute, 2018). The impact of the misappropriation on public schools over the long-term period is enormous and the signatories to the trust account should be held to account. The RESI programme would have been a significant project delivering much needed development and repairs to all school infrastructure throughout the country but has ultimately failed because of corruption.
~ Reference/Bibliography ~
K230m RESI funds used up: Tiensten. The National. (2009, November 13). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/k230m-resi-funds-used-up-tiensten/
Bugandi gets RESI funds. The National. (2009, November 5). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/bugandi-gets-resi-funds/
One charged with theft of Aiyura RESI funds. The National. (2010, November 8). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/one-charged-with-theft-of-aiyura-resi-funds/
Wari, P. (2016, April 14). K49m for schools gone missing. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/k49m-for-schools-gone-missing/
Alleged misuse of funds affect school projects. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/alleged-misuse-funds-affect-school-projects/
Faiparik, C. (2017). Agency had to go: PM. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/agency-go-pm/
Abel, C. (2018). “PNG in the year of APEC.” The Lowy Institute, 18 June 2018, Sydney, Australia. Keynote Address. Retrieved from https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/speech-hon-charles-abel-deputy-prime-minister-and-treasurer-papua-new-guinea