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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Inquiry Urged Over Ok Tedi Foundation Spending In PNG
Allegedly failed to provide for basic services to community

By Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 14, 2012) – Members of Parliament in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province have called for Task Force Sweep to investigate the operations of Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF) because they believe mine closure funds have been spent on investments rather than basic services for the 70,000 people living along the Fly River system who may be affected by waste dumped from the Ok Tedi mine.

Supporting a commitment by Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Michael Malabag, the leaders have confirmed they will take the matter up to the National Executive Council for its deliberation and decision.

The Member for North Fly and Minister for Art, Culture and Tourism, Boka Kondra, South Fly MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aide Ganasi and Member for Middle Fly Roy Biyama made their intentions known in a signed statement released in Port Moresby yesterday.

They said the management of OTDF had stepped out of its mandate by failing to consult the people’s representatives before deciding to spend K80 million [US$38.2 million] of their money to purchase three coastal vessels from Malaysia and two Twin Otter aircraft from Canada.

MPs Kondra, Ganasi and Biyama said they were concerned because OTDF, an arm of PNG Sustainable Development Program set up under OTML to administer the people’s money for their benefit, had failed to provide community services for the benefit of the people.

They said a health investigation carried out in some of the affected villages early this year had found that women were suffering and dying from what they had described as "abnormal bleeding", apart from other complaints. The cause or causes of these medical problems have yet to be identified because OTDF and the National Government have not followed up on the reports.

The MPs said according to information from the people’s "trust leaders", they could confirm that "a total K80 million was (spent) to purchase three vessels from Sarawak Slipways, Malaysia, and two Twin Otters from Viking Air Limited, Canada".

They also claim that the community trust leaders had been "influenced into signing off on all these investments", and that the OTDF had not produced any business or investment plans and did not get the approval of the leaders and representatives of the 70,000 people before making the purchases.

"(We) are concerned about proper utilization of investment funds for the communities’ future needs of basic health services, clean water supply and affordable housing," MPs Kondra, Ganasi and Biyama said.

"The purchase of the airplanes and shipping vessels does not align with future prioritized needs. The communities need impact projects for basic health, education and community livelihood projects," they said.

The leaders also said they believe no proper due diligence was done for the tender and procurement of these assets purchased from the people’s money.

"We are very concerned that the community funds are not managed in a transparent manner. OTDF has lost sight of its core business," the three MPs said.

"Many mothers and young women are dead due to a mysterious illness that is affecting them along the Fly River system. OTDF was established as the implementing agency for community projects but it has failed the 70,000 people by not responding quickly to address the issue," Messrs Kondra, Ganasi and Biyama said.

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