Paga link to `profits from PNG deceased’
Natasha Robinson | The Australian
Consultancy firms associated with the Cairns executive who leads a $48 million program of welfare reform in Cape York were accused of illegally profiting from the proceeds of the estates of deceased Papua New Guinea nationals in a series of damning findings by PNG parliamentary investigations.
Gummi Fridriksson, a champion of indigenous rights based in North Queensland, is at the centre of a development conflict in PNG after his company, the Paga Hill Development Company, evicted settlers to make way for a planned multi-million-dollar marina and hotel complex in Port Moresby.
The conversion of prime land that was previously a national park to a commercial lease in favour of Mr Fridriksson’s PNG-registered company was described as dubious and illegal by a PNG parliamentary committee, the findings of which are strongly disputed by Mr Fridriksson.
But The Australian can reveal that government contracts awarded to the Iceland-born entrepreneur’s other commercial ventures have also been subject to official censure.
Mr Fridriksson is chief executive of the Cape York Institute, and also the director of welfare reform for Cape York Partnerships, which has been given $48m by state and federal governments during the past four years for its welfare reform trial.
A report published by the British-based consultancy the International State Crime Initiative this week alleged the development company had committed human rights violations by forcibly evicting settlers.
The report also documented Mr Fridriksson’s 20-year history in PNG. Parliamentary investigations have found a consultancy he formed, Anvil Project Services, later known as CCS Anvil, was overpaid by many millions by the PNG government outside of proper procurement processes. The PNG Office of the Auditor-General in 2005 carried investigated the PNG Public Curator’s Office, which acts as trustee for properties of the deceased.
Anvil Project Services had been contracted by the PNG justice department to address financial and operational management problems at the Public Curator’s Office. It was paid $4,872,375 kina ($2,329,062 at the current rate of exchange) by the PNG government for its services, allegedly illegallyfrom the proceeds of deceased estates.
A PNG Public Accounts Committee report tabled in parliament found Anvil had unlawfully withheld $1,966,677 kina in monies it received from realisation of assets of deceased estates.
Mr Fridriksson yesterday declined to comment but a spokesman for CCS Anvil, George Hallit, said the Office of the Public Curator was “riddled with mismanagement” and that Anvil’s fees for corporatising the office had been “found to be perfectly reasonable . . . All were referred to the Auditor-General’s Office, and . . . CCS Anvil was vindicated.”
The Australian contacted the Auditor-General’s Office and was told there had been “no additional directions” given by the office over the 2005 report findings: “What we reported stands.”