Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Polye loses powers

Source: The National, Tuesday 28th Febuary 2012

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday removed all financial powers from major coalition partner Don Polye.
Polye, who leads the new Triumph
Heritage Empowerment Party and who was instrumental in putting O’Neill in power, was until yesterday Finance and Treasury Minister.
Today he is vested with Treasury, Border Development and a sprinkling of statutory institutions.
In a letter, O’Neill informed Polye that
his removal stemmed from recent events concerning the payout of landowner funds and also cited “runaway expenditure” in
the Department of Finance.
Polye only last week assured frustrated gas and oil landowners in Port Moresby that they would be paid their Infrastructure Development Grants (IDG) but only after all necessary government processes had been completed.
Last Friday, the landowners converged on Morauta Haus, which houses the offices of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to vent their frustration again.
“These project grants are to fund infrastructure projects such as public roads, bridges, schools, clinics, hospitals and so forth,” Polye had said.
“These funds are not cash handouts to landowners but are specifically grants made to those pro­vinces and local level governments affected by the PNG LNG project.”
Polye yesterday revealed that at least K129 million in IDG funds had been disbursed outside approved processes.
He said this was unlawful and promised an investigation.
Polye’s statement did not appease the prime minister who said in his letter on the decision to relieve him of financial powers:
“This decision is in light of complaints in relation to various landowner funds as per the state’s responsibilities and commitments under the Oil and Gas Act and UBSA (umbrella benefits sharing agreement) and various LBBSAs (licensed-based benefits sharing agreements) under the PNG LNG Agreement.
“Furthermore, the continuing lack of ability by the department and ministry of finance to contain expenditure overruns outside of the budget appropriations has not aba­ted since I wrote to you last,” O’Neill said.
“This decision is taken in the best interest of the government.”
Polye is now the minister for Treasury and Border Development,
the latter role having been
removed from the ministry of
Inter-Government Relation and District Deve­lopment.
O’Neill said last night the measure was temporary to resolve the pressing landowner issues and runaway expenditure.
But he did not indicate when the Finance portfolio would be returned to Polye.
He also hinted that a major reshuffle was imminent

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