state affairsThe Minister for State and Administrative Services has a rich and varied portfolio which includes volcanic eruptions and floods as well as looking after the nearly 400 public servants who work for the present Prime Minister. He also looks after three former Prime Ministers, the Speaker, each of the 27 Government Ministers and seven Parliamentary Party leaders. He also keeps the accounts for the money spent by all Members of Parliament on projects in their own areas.

The present Minister is the Honourable Paul Tohian, QPM, MP, Regional Member for New Ireland.

The first set of duties derives from fact that the National Disaster and Emergency Services come under his control. When Tavurvur and Vulcan erupted in Rabaul in September 1994 and Karkar volcano blew up in Madang the same year, when the Sepik or any other river floods causing deaths and damage, and when there are major landslips in the mountainous areas, it is this Ministry, and the Minister himself, who is responsible for making sure that the Emergency Services do their duty.

Natural disasters often involve fires and the Ministry controls the Fire Service, which operates fourteen permanently established Fire Stations throughout the country, employing nearly 400 people. Active consideration is being given to the use of volunteers to extend the work of this force which, according to its own reports, has become overstretched.

The National Liquor Licensing Commission, a statutory organisation, also comes under the Ministry for State Affairs. This is a small but crucial organisation, whose workload and income-generating capacity will increase dramatically if powers presently held by provincial governments are abolished as part of the reform of local government. A t present decisions about the sale and consumption of liquor are made by each province.

But perhaps the most well known part of the job of the Ministry for State Affairs is to do with the regulation of a fund called ‘The Electoral Development Fund’. An amount of K300,000 is provided annually to each Member of Parliament to support projects in his or her constituency.