PNG govt urged to release funding promised to athletes

Photo: Team PNG/Facebook

Papua New Guinea’s government has come under fire for not delivering on its financial promise to Team PNG to the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara starting on Sunday.

The PNG Olympic Committee (PNGOC) has questioned the government about the $12.5 million kina (US$3.3 million) it had committed to provide its Pacific Games contingent.

Sports Minister Don Polye has also added his criticism, saying that “Consistent follow-ups have fallen on deaf ears.”

“Team PNG needs (about) K$8.5m (US$2.3 million) for the Pacific Games but that funding is yet to be released,” Polye was quoted by The National newspaper.

“It is a national responsibility to send Team PNG for the Pacific Games,” he said.

“Treasury has been requested and reminded countless times of the decision…but it seems Treasury has lost touch with reality.”

He confirmed to The National that only K$4m (US$1.1 million) had been released to fund Team PNG’s participation in Honiara, describing it as “half-hearted” by government.

According to the PNGOC secretary general Auvita Rapilla, PNGOC have paid for their preparation from funds they had raised through fundraising, sponsorships from local companies and federation levies.

Rapilla said the PNGOC and the Papua New Guinea sports federations were also paying for the charter flight that is booked to fly Team PNG to Honiara and they want government to keep their commitment.

Team PNG have a contingent of 515 athletes and officials for the Pacific Games.

The PNG government has providing financial assistance totalling K$20m (US$5.4 million) to three other Pacific nations, and opposition leader Joseph Lelang said PNG’s own athletes “have taken a backstage”.

“Giving priorities to other countries and to their citizens first when it comes to allocation of scarce resources is a real shame,” he said.

However, the Deputy Prime Minister John Russo said PNG’s contributions to other countries “exemplify PNG’s dedication to fostering goodwill and solidarity within the Pacific Islands Forum family of nations and reflect the deep sense of responsibility towards the welfare of fellow island nations”.

The first set of Team PNG athletes have departed for Honiara on Monday morning. However, there are concerns that if the funding does not come through the number of athletes that travel to the Games “is likely to be reduced”, The National reported.