Mr Micah is no stranger to allegations of corruption in public office.
Can anyone confirm or deny this latest allegation?
I would like to direct my ‘QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE’ to the Prime Minister.
But before I ask my question, I would like to commend you for restoring and maintaining the Parliamentary Democracy, impartiality, independence of the chair in this Honourable House and assuring the supremacy of Parliament.
I would like to take this time also to thank and commend the Prime Minister for putting “FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION’ as one of his government’s policy priorities. Prime Minister, your decision to establishing the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and giving more teeth to Police Fraud Squad and Task Force Sweet is also highly commended.
Opposition stands ready to support the Bill when it’s introduced before Parliament. Opposition also welcomes your recent decision in engaging Australian Federal Police and Interpol to assist local authorities to investigate ‘CORRUPTION AND FRAUD’ at the Department of Finance and Treasury.
Opposition believes that this is the move in the right direction to addressing ‘CORRUPTION’ in our country.
At this juncture, I would like to quote two profound statements you made in your response to my series of questions without notice in relation to the K71.8m paid to Paul Paraka Lawyers on Tuesday 21st of May 2013, and I quote;
“I have suspended the Secretary for Finance and Deputy Secretary and if means sacking people from the top down and even if I have to sack the tea boy I will do it” end of quote.
Your second profound statement Mr. Prime Minister was, and I quote;
“I will ensure that anybody who is involved in facilitating this illegal payments, they will be dealt with the full force of the law” end of quote.
Before I ask my question, I would like to read a letter which I have so in order that my question can be better appreciated by the Prime Minister and all Honourable Members.
The letter reads; RE: PARAKA LAWYERS (read the letter here) signed Hon. Peter O’Neill, The Prime Minister.
This letter is the Letter of Direction from Hon. Peter O’Neill, the Prime of Papua New Guinea directing the Minister for Finance and Treasury then Hon. Don Polye dated 24th of January 2012.
The letter which I have just read is credible and undisputed. It was written and signed by the Prime Minister and Mr Paraka has been using this letter to persuade and intimidate public officials to receive payments and obtain clearance from the Bank of South Pacific and the Central Bank.
By the fact of this evidence and the two profound statements the Prime Minister himself made in parliament on Tuesday 21st May 2013 which I quoted earlier, I would like to ask the Prime Minister one simple question:
Mr. Prime Minister,
Will you do the most honourable thing which is morally and ethically proper for any Prime Minister whose integrity is put into serious question, sack yourself AS PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Rowan Callick | The Australian
A JUDICIAL inquiry revealing a $300 million scam perpetrated by top officials and leading lawyers has provoked a sensation in Papua New Guinea, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill warning that he may sack everyone in the Finance Department.
He is seeking the support of the Australian Federal Police and of Interpol in a “high-level investigation” of the corruption, with initial funding of $1 million.
He suspended Finance secretary Steven Gibson and his deputy Jacob Yafai yesterday.
The 811-page report of the inquiry – which was conducted for the parliament by PNG judges Maurice Sheehan, a New Zealander, and Cathy Davani, and by prominent businessman Don Manoa – was injuncted three years ago by the law firm of solicitor Paul Paraka, who is named throughout the report.
The report reveals a large number of bogus compensation claims made by and settled within the senior bureaucracy.
And fresh information reveals that massive corrupt payments have continued, despite the comprehensive findings of the report.
Although the Post-Courier newspaper – owned, like The Australian, by News Limited – failed to have the injunction lifted at the time, pressure has built to act on the inquiry’s recommendations, including the criminal prosecution of 57 prominent people.
When the report was originally presented to parliament three years ago, it was only reported by The Australian, which is published outside PNG’s jurisdiction [and on the PNGexposed blog].
Last week, Mr O’Neill issued a directive to fellow ministers that “the government act swiftly to determine the legal status of payments made by the Department of Finance”.
“It has come to my notice that massive payments in millions of kina have been made to law firms, companies and individuals for legal fees and out-of-court settlements by the department,” he said.
The Prime Minister told parliament on Tuesday:
“If I have to close the Finance Department for four months, I will do that.
“If I have to sack everyone including the tea boy at Finance, I will do so to clear the place up.
“It is not just one individual, company or law firm we are talking about. It is many that have been benefiting from public funds.”
Opposition Leader Belden Namah attempted to discuss the scandal at a press conference last Friday but the local media were still prevented by the injunction from reporting it.
The Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc, also prevented Mr Namah from raising the matter in the parliament.
However, the Speaker, receiving fresh legal advice, permitted Mr Namah yesterday to ask lengthy questions on the issue, enabling some of the matters to be reported freely through parliamentary privilege for the first time.
The sensational nature of this information immediately provoked a storm of public outrage, poured out through talkback radio and social media.
Papua New Guinea’s prime minister says he will shut down the country’s finance department if he has to while allegations of improper payments are investigated.
The opposition has alleged the department paid law firm Paul Paraka Lawyers more than $30 million without the proper approvals.
Prime minister Peter O’Neill has suspended the finance secretary and the deputy secretary while the allegations are investigated.
“I will go down as far as sacking the cleaner if I have to,” he said.
“If we have to shut down the finance department for one month or two months we will to get to the bottom of this.”
The law firm insists the payments were approved by the country’s former attorney-general.
Principal lawyer Paul Paraka says it is “premature to allege any impropriety… without all the parties being heard”.
From NBC PNG NEWS via Islands Business
The Papua New Guinea Government has been called on to consider imposing the highest penalties on people involved in corporate fraud.
Member for Kundiawa/Gembogl, Tobias Kulang, made this call in Parliament Tuesday, and again at a media conference soon after, following revelations of a massive white collar and corporate crime within the Finance Department.
Kulang says public funds belonging to the men, women and children of PNG, which could been used to build and maintain infrastructure to improve their lives, are being misused, through fraud and white collar crimes, while those who deserve services are dying unnecessarily.
The MP says these are high level citizens who are held in high esteem, and should be charged with systematic murder.
” We are talking about tougher penalties for small people who may be committing crime because of lack of economic means. What about the people involved in corporate crime who are committing systematic murder, who are depriving the people from means to better economic life and opportunities? They are stealing money and our people who are supposed to have access to better health services, better infrastructure are dying because of lack of accessibility. What are we going to do about those people who are causing systematic death and misery in our community?”
Prime Minister Peter O’ Neill agrees stiffer penalties need to be put in place for such people.
O’Neill says the government is committed to its fight against corruption of all forms in the country.
He says this will be dealt with under the current proposed move by the government to increase penalties for the various forms of crimes occurring in the country.
Opposition Leader Belden Namah alleges Paul Paraka lawyers has continued to fraudulently claim millions of Kina from the State since the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry uncovered Paraka’s scam. Namah says the latest payments, totalling K71 million, were paid between Feb. 2012 and May this year…
Belden Namah MP
Paul Paraka Lawyers has been paid tens of millions of Kina between 2001 and 2006 under a retainer agreement with the Department of Attorney General for the law firm to defend the state against claims made against the state. Large amounts of money paid to this law firm, and similar payments to others by the Department of Finance, raised eye brows in Waigani, which resulted in the then Somare Government setting up a Commission of Inquiry, known as the Finance Inquiry.
The Finance Inquiry concluded its inquiry and presented a report to the then Prime Minister, the Right Hon Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. As the Prime Minister prepared to table the report in Parliament, Paul Paraka Lawyers flew all the way into Alotau from Port Moresby to obtain a National Court Order (ex parte) restraining the Prime Minister from tabling the report in Parliament.
The order, which was a temporary order and returnable for substantive hearing, has never been heard of to this day and is collecting dust in the National and Supreme Court Registry. The Registrar’s office and the office of the Attorney General owe an explanation on what became of this case as the Finance Inquiry not only cost the people of Papua New Guinea K27 million but the report contains findings on how millions of public funds went missing and who improperly benefited out of these public funds.
The blatant neglect of duty and failure to prosecute the matter and have it discharged has resulted in the COI report, also, collecting dust somewhere in the Offices of the Prime Minister.
History would have it that this is the first time in Papua New Guinea that a Commission of Inquiry report, costing tax payers millions of Kina to produce, has been suppressed by any one, from being tabled in Parliament and made available for public consumption.
[The Commission of Inquiry Report can be accessed here: http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-full-finance-department-commission-of-inquiry-report/ ]
Papua New Guineans have been deliberately, or by neglect of duty, denied their right to know whether hundreds of millions of their monies paid to Paul Paraka Lawyers and others by the Department of Finance, were legitimate payments.
Further to the above, the Hon. Bire Kimisopa, Member for Goroka upon becoming the Minister for Justice, commissioned in 2006, a Departmental Inquiry into “Brief-Out” of cases by the Attorney General’s Office. The inquiry was chaired by the former Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, and the now Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Rimbink Pato was a member of the inquiry team.
Upon receipt of the inquiry report in late 2006, the Hon. Bire Kimisopa terminated the retainer contract with Paul Paraka Lawyers and all case files were returned to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Law Firm then took the State to Court claiming outstanding bills of around K6 million for the entire contract period. The National Court, in proceeding OS 876, decided in favour of Paraka Lawyers and ordered the state to pay a little over K6 million.
The state appealed the decision of the National Court, disputing among others, the amount awarded. Pending the hearing of the appeal, the state successfully obtained from the Supreme Court a stay order restraining the payment of any state funds against the National Court Order to Paul Paraka Lawyers. The stay order was issued through Supreme Court proceeding number; SCM 3 of 2007 which is current and on foot and has never been discharged.
The Honourable Davies Steven, now Minister for Civil Aviation was the lawyer acting for the state in both the National and Supreme Court proceedings and can attest to this fact.
This means that Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to any payment at all from the state. No new legal work has been given by the state to Paul Paraka Lawyers since 2007 to warrant any payment.
Paul Paraka Lawyers has been providing pro bono legal services to private citizens for some time now. However, this work is not authorized or contracted by the state and remains free legal services provided to people at the firm’s own accord. It is not entitled to make any claims against the state.
This is confirmed by the fact that at least three senior Judges of the National and Supreme Courts and the Attorney General, Honourable Kerenga Kua have spoken out against the law firm’s so called pro bono legal services as unconstitutional and without legal foundation.
Despite the fact that the Commission of Inquiry report on the missing millions from the Finance Department is yet to be made public, and despite the fact that the retainer agreement between the Attorney Generals Department and Paul Paraka Lawyers ceased or terminated in late 2006, and despite a current and effective Supreme Court Order barring any payment of funds to Paraka Lawyers, millions of Kina has continuously been paid to Paraka Lawyers since 2007 up to the present time.
No information is available on how much has illegally been paid to Paraka Lawyers between 2007 and 2012.
However, between February 2012 and up to May this year 2013, a staggering K71.8 million has been paid by the Department of Finance to Paul Paraka Lawyers. This indeed is a huge amount of public money going into a single Law Firm in just one year.
These payments are nothing but daylight robbery of the people of Papua New Guinea by various individuals colluding with Paul Paraka Lawyers to defraud the Independent State of Papua New Guinea of its monies.
People in the Departments of Attorney General and Finance, and the National and Supreme Court Registry and other public and private organizations, including the media, have been colluding and conniving with Paul Paraka Lawyers and facilitating the fraud and or preventing the fraud from being exposed and dealt with by the law.
On 17 February 2012, the first batch totalling K30 million was paid indirectly to Paraka Lawyers through a web of law firms and a company. The second batch of K14 million was paid on 2nd November 2012. The third payment of K13.8 million was made on 21 December 2012 The fourth batch of K6 million was paid on 13 March 2013 and the latest payment is an amount of K8 million paid on 6 May 2013. The grand total to date is K71.8 million and there is information that a fresh batch of claims, has been or is about to be lodged with the Department of Finance.
It is to be noted that the K14 million paid in November 2013 and the K13 million paid in December 2013 was from trust accounts as these payments were unbudgeted for.
Paul Paraka Lawyers have not been given any work by state and has not done any work for the state since 2007 and it is amazing how such a massive K71 million could be given away for free to this firm.
Mr Paraka has solicited and received these funds through false pretence and with intention to defraud the state.
Mr Paraka, the principal of Paul Paraka Lawyers being a lawyer and knowing full well of the existence of the Supreme Court Order barring his firm of being paid any money from his claim for outstanding bills, used a web of law firms and a company to be paid the first K30 million to avoid violation of the current Supreme Court Order.
At Mr Paraka’s instruction to the Finance Department, the K30 million was broken up and paid to the recipient conduit law firms and a company in the following manner,
1. Paul Othas Lawyers K6, 000.000
2. Harvey Nii Lawyers K6, 000,000
3. Sino & Company K6, 000,000
4. Jack Kilipi Lawyers K6, 000,000
5. PKP Nominees Ltd K6, 000,000
Upon presentation of the cheques in the above amounts by the conduit recipients at the Bank of South Pacific, it appears the Bank was reluctant to allow deposits and subsequent transactions on the funds. However, with the intervention of two senior officers of the Department of Finance namely, Messrs Melton Bogege (Financial Controller) and Yeme Kaivila (Senior Accountant) the cheques were cleared. The two officers co-signed a letter dated 20 February which read in part, (quote):
“The payments were based on a valid Court Order and appropriate audit process was carried out and clearance from the Solicitor General. The Department of Finance had no right to question such authority, and facilitated the payment on the endorsement and approval of the Secretary for Finance”.
The two officers deliberately lied and mislead the Bank, in particular the assertion that the payments were based on a valid court order and that the Solicitor General’s Office had cleared the payments.
Mr Paraka is also believed to have written numerous letters justifying the payments and even gone to the extent of issuing veil threats to BSP staff if they refused to clear the cheques.
Eventually, BSP allowed the cheques to be cleared. The cash from the funds are believed to have been remitted back to Paul Paraka Lawyers by the recipient conduit firms, minus their commissions.
Apart from the K30 million paid using conduit firms, all the other payments amounting K41 million have been made directly to Paul Paraka Lawyers.
It is believed that the decision by Mr Paraka to have later payments made direct to his firm is because the Bank of South Pacific has warned that it will not clear any more funds channelled through conduit firms.
The Solicitor General’s Office, upon learning of the above payments by the Finance Department filed a complaint with Task Force Sweep and the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad to investigate this massive fraud. When investigations commenced and a search warrant was obtained to search and obtain documents at BSP, Paul Paraka Lawyers ran to the District Court and filed an application to set aside the search warrant with a view to concealing the whole saga.
Documents obtained from the District Court Registry at Waigani, confirm that Mr Paul Paraka has filed an application to set aside the search warrants, and further, for a permanent restraining order to restrain any investigations into these allegations.
In his affidavit in support of the application, Mr Paraka admits receiving those funds but for work undertaken in the past. He deposes in his affidavit that there is no stay order and lists a number of Court orders.
The orders, which Mr Paraka refers to were consolidated in Os 876 of 2006 and was superseded by the Supreme Court decision in SCM 3 of 2007 which stayed the orders and the entire proceedings of OS 876.
Mr Paraka has lied on oath by making false and misleading statements that he was entitled to receive the payments, when clearly, he or his firm is not.
Numerous visits and attempts are made to the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad and Task Force Sweep authorities investigating this matter to drop the investigations. The case officers are believed to have been threatened and intimidated.
Questions for the Attorney General
Honourable Minister and Attorney General; The Government has been preaching about fighting corruption to the core, which has been welcomed by the people of Papua New Guinea and indeed, those of us on this side of the House.
High on the O’Neill-Dion Governments agenda would have to be fighting white collar criminals who continuously steal millions and millions of Public Funds. Our people are dying or suffering every day as a result of lack of basic services, simply because a very few selfish and greedy white collar criminals steal the money, that otherwise would have been used, to meet their needs.
The questions I am about to ask you relate to a massive K71 million fraud involving a major Law Firm. The questions are as follows;
- Can the Minister confirm or deny that a law firm called Paul Paraka Lawyers has any current and valid contract or retainer agreement with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for legal services?
- Can the Minister confirm or deny that a retainer agreement signed in 2001 with Paul Paraka Lawyers was terminated in late 2006 by none other than the Honourable Bire Kimisopa, the Member for Goroka, then Minister for Justice, following an investigation into ‘Out of Court Settlements’ handled by this law firm?
- Can the Minister confirm or deny that Paul Paraka Lawyers, upon termination of the retainer agreement by the Hon Kimisopa, took the state to court, claiming a little over K6 million as outstanding bills for the contract period, that is, from 2001 to 2006?
- Can the Minister confirm or deny that the National Court awarded the claim of K6 million by Paraka Lawyers in Os 876 of 2006?
- Can the Minister confirm or deny, that the ‘Orders’ of the National Court obtained by Paraka Lawyers in OS 876 and the ‘Entire Proceedings’, in OS 876 were stayed by the Supreme Court in proceedings SCM 03 of 2007, on application by the state?
- If the answer to Q5 is in the affirmative, can the Minister then confirm that Paul Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to be paid any monies against his claims unless the Supreme Court Orders are discharged or the substantive appeal is determined?
- If the answer to Q6 is in the affirmative, is the Minister aware that a massive K71 million has been paid to Paul Paraka Lawyers between February 2012 and May 2013 by the Department of Finance allegedly for outstanding bills or court orders?
For your convenience, the schedule of payments is as follows;
Feb 17/ 2012 K30, 000,000
Nov 02 /2012 K13, 800,000
Dec 21 /2012 K14, 000,000
Mar 13 /2013 K06, 000,000
May 6 /2013 K08, 000,000
- Can the Minister inform the Parliament and the people of Papua New Guinea if the pay out of this huge amount of public money has been sanctioned or cleared by the Solicitor General or your office?
- If the answer is in the negative, will the Minister take immediate steps to have this DAYLIGHT ROBBERY of the people of Papua New Guinea dealt with swiftly by the Fraud Squad and Task Force Sweep and those who have schemed and facilitated and or benefited from this massive fraud brought to justice?
- As the Attorney General, will you refer the Principal of Paul Paraka Lawyers to the PNG Law Society to be dealt with by the Lawyers Statutory Committee for what is undoubtedly, a scandalous and unethical conduct by a very senior lawyer?
- Will you assure this Parliament that you will also pursue contempt proceedings against all those concerned for violating the Supreme Court Order SCM 3 of 2007, which stayed payment of any public funds to Paul Paraka Lawyers?
- Honourable Minister, three senior Judges of the National and Supreme Courts and your self have come out stating that a so called pro bono legal aid service provided to the public by this particular law firm is unconstitutional. Could you confirm therefore, that Paul Paraka Lawyers is not entitled to any payment by the state in consideration of its pro bono legal aid service?
- Mr Minister, if the Solicitor General’s or your Office has not cleared and authorized the Department of Finance to pay K71.8 million to Paul Paraka Lawyers, then can you inform this Parliament who in Government authorized such a hefty and corrupt payment and for what?
- Finally, Mr Minister, will you inform this Parliament as to what became of the Finance Commission of Inquiry which cost the tax payers K27 million but was suppressed by this same law firm from being tabled in this Parliament by taking out a preventive Order through the National Court? The order was a temporary order and returnable for substantive hearing but is never heard of, to this day!