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!
In 2010 we published the details from the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry.
But those whole stole hundreds of millions of Kina have never faced justice.
Please take a moment to remind yourself of the enormous scale of their crime:
The Paraka scams – K780 million stolen from the people – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/the-paraka-scams-k780-million-stolen-from-the-people/
The full Finance Department Commission of Inquiry report – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-full-finance-department-commission-of-inquiry-report/
Paul Paraka lawyers trying to block private email messages and censor access to the internet - http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/paul-paraka-lawyers-trying-to-block-private-email-messages-and-censor-access-to-the-internet/
Yama and Gelu conspired to steal K15.5 million from the people of PNG – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/yama-and-gelu-conspired-to-steal-k15-5-million-from-the-people-of-png/
Finance Sec Gabriel Yer led a triad whole stole K1.6 million – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/finance-sec-gabriel-yer-led-a-triad-whole-stole-k1-6-million/
Zacchary Gelu and Mundua Kua tried to steal K1.7 million in another Paraka style scam – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/zacchary-gelu-and-mundua-kua-tried-to-steal-k1-7-million-in-another-paraka-style-scam/
Isaac Lupari, aided by Gelu and Paraka lawyers, stole K3.7 million – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/isaac-lupari-aided-by-gelu-and-paraka-lawyers-stole-k3-7-million/
Dept of Lands completely incompetent and dishonest - http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/dept-of-lands-completely-incompetent-and-dishonest/
Soiat Williams and Zacchary Gelu conspired to steal K500,000 – http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/soiat-williams-and-zacchary-gelu-conspired-to-steal-k500000/
Tom Rangip and Pacific Paradise Foods unlawfully paid K14.85 million - http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/tom-rangip-and-pacific-paradise-foods-unlawfully-paid-k14-85-million/
Engan businessman, Kandaso Napi, is a vocal supporter of reopening the Panguna mine on Bougainville but he has already illegally obtained millions of kina by exploiting the war sparked by the mine and the suffering of women and children….
The Daily Log (The National) and The Post-Courier are fond of publishing press-releases as news. Lately the Engan ‘self-made businessman’, Kandaso Napi, and his unadulterated views on Bougainville, have been getting heavy airplay in the national media (7 articles in the Post-Courier alone!!). Napi made his fortune leasing trucks to Bougainville Copper Limited – owned by Rio Tinto – during the 1980s.
Napi wants Rio Tinto to return to Bougainville and uplift its ‘impoverished’ population who are now, he claims, “living off the streets of Port Moresby or the jungles of Bougainville”.* The Post-Courier reports Napi “urged all stakeholders, landowners and government to meet, discuss and explore all avenues available that would lead to reopening the Panguna copper mine as soon as possible for the benefit of Bougainvillean men, women and children” – not, of course, for the benefit of Napi.
Referring to Rio Tinto’s role in war crimes, Napi argues,“it is better to work with the devil you know”. He adds in a recent statement to The National, “BCL or Rio Tinto … must not be squarely blamed for all the problems associated with the mine”.
What The Post-Courier and The National fail to note – why would they, after all journalism is not their business – is that Napi cashed in on the Bougainville war through a scandalous and illegal claim which was slammed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance.**
Tens of thousands of Bougainvilleans had their homes and livelihood destroyed by national government forces between 1988-1998 – many lost their loved ones too under the most brutal of circumstances. None of these Bougainvilleans have been compensated for their loss by the national government; even a US class action against Rio Tinto has been slapped down.
Things, however, have fared much better for the Engan businessman. If money talks, Napi it would appear, is the only true victim of the Bougainville conflict, that is according to the national government.
The Commission of Inquiry allege that Napi’s company Nakitu Ltd, claimed “a total of K13.1 million [from the PNG government], as the ‘projected’ loss suffered” from the Bougainville conflict.
The Commission of Inquiry observed, “there is no cause of action known at law to support such claim and to link the State and make the State liable for loss of business which the claimant claims as suffered”.
They continue, “Mr. Gelu, as the Solicitor General … essentially agreed that there was no cause of action, (see transcript of proceedings no. 81, pp2677-2678) but yet he proceeded to settle the claim”. Now why would Mr Gelu do that????
Before the NEC became aware of the illegal transaction, Napi successfully pocketed K3.25 million. Not bad!
So Napi cashes in on the suffering associated with the conflict through illegal means, while the actual victims of state atrocities, the people of Bougainville, have received a total of K0.00 in compensation.
And yet still the national press feels it is appropriate to publish ‘article’ (press-release) after ‘article’ (press-release) on Napi and his vision for the reopening of Panguna.
Now why would they do that???References * http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20130219/business.htm ** http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-full-finance-department-commission-of-inquiry-report/
Recently PNGexposed has posted a series of articles that scrutinize the past of Rex Paki. Paki currently sits on the Board of the PNG Sustainable Development Programmed and the Bank of PNG, in addition to being the Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority.
These articles pointed out that Paki was slammed in two Commission of Inquiry reports, two Public Accounts Committee reports and an Auditor General report.
In response to these articles, the Chairman of Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stephens, who is also a Program Manager at PNGSDP, defended Paki, claiming these reports amounted to mere “unproven accusations”.
PNGexposed took issue with this slight against PNG’s public accounting agencies and judicial organs, and our view was made known yesterday – TI dismisses Commission of Inquiry findings.
In response, Mr Stephens continued his defense of Rex Paki: “So where do we put a headline which points out that PNG Exposed is involved in astonishing displays of arrogant ignorance with its nameless correspondents insulting all Papua New Guineans through blatant disregard for the right of individuals named by commissions of inquiry to have their days in court”.
As TIPNG’s Chairman, surely Mr Stephens must recognize that dozens of carefully researched, well documented reports, where individuals were given a fair hearing, have been tabled in PNG, by judicial inquiries and other public accounting bodies, without any attempt to prosecute the named individuals. Surely, it is not TIPNG’s position that the failure to prosecute is tantamount to exoneration. It is not.
The RPNGC and Task-Force Sweep only have the resources to prosecute a small proportion of offenders. Moreover, often they themselves are subject to political pressure and internal corruption, which makes mounting prosecutions difficult. And when cases do make it to court, they have a notable tendency to be dismissed without reason. As the head of Taskforce Sweep, Sam Koim, has observed: “Our files have been properly scrutinised before they were served, only to be struck out by the District Courts left-right-centre…The magistrates rarely publish their reasons for their decisions and so in most cases, there is room to conclude that justice was done without reason”.
There are many examples to support Koim’s allegation.
But lets look at some occasions, when Mr Rex Paki, was given his day in court – admittedly, these are not criminal charges, but nonetheless they involve serious accusations of impropriety and incompetence, which were scrutinised by senior PNG judges.
Example 1: Poya v Paki  PGNC
A Director/Shareholder in the company Voco Point Trading Ltd, asked the court to remove Rex Paki as liquidator. The National Court found as follows:
“Rex Paki was appointed and consented to be a liquidator on 5th March 2004. Since his appointment, the liquidator has so far provided 4 reports to the creditors; 2 in March and May of 2005 and the other 2 in June and October 2008 following a direction by the Court. The reports are unsatisfactory, for instance, the preferential debt due to the Internal Revenue Commission, which would rank before all the unsecured creditors, is not known. It is also not known why 6 monthly reports as envisaged by section 305 (2) of the Companies Act were not prepared and sent to creditors or shareholders of the company. Second, there is evidence of conversion and the explanation by Rex Paki is unsatisfactory. Two motor vehicles registration numbers LAD 538 and HAH 381 have been transferred to and registered in the name of Rex Paki without the authority or knowledge of Nathaniel Poya. Third, the evidence discloses that the liquidator has not reported the fire on the Voco Point property to the Police or the Insurance Assessors. Fourth, there is no evidence before the Court that every known creditor was notified of the meeting or a public notice to all creditors was given according to section 293 (2) & (3) of the Companies Act. There is a copy of a notice of meeting dated 13th June 2008 before the Court, but how the creditors were notified is not known to me. The evidence is that only 25 out of 89 creditors attended the meeting. The purpose of the meeting, which was to determine whether a new liquidator should be appointed, was not stated in the notice. Finally, a liquidator is required to have regard to views of the shareholders by whom a special resolution was passed for purposes of voluntary liquidation (see section 308 of the Companies Act). It was resolved at the shareholders meeting on 5th March 2004 that the liquidator is to give a report to the shareholders on any sale of assets. There is no evidence that the liquidator has given the shareholders interim reports of the sale of assets. I am satisfied and agree with Nathaniel Poya that Rex Paki be terminated as the liquidator forthwith
Example 2: Paki v Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd  PGSC
Here the Supreme Court examined attempts by Rex Paki to avoid the process of discovery, after it was allaged he had overcharged a client. The court concludes:
It is clear to us that the appellant [Paki] was attempting to avoid giving discovery; the refusal was repeated, chronic and designed to conceal the true state of affairs. He was evasive and dishonest. He gave different reasons for not producing the invoices. He said copies of the invoices were available for inspection at Namaliu & David Lawyers, that the originals were in archives at Korobosea, that the copies on his computer have been lost because the computer crashed, that copies have been misplaced and he needed time to locate them, that copies were available at MVIL or at the offices of Mr. Kerenga Kua, a lawyer. He did not give discovery despite agreeing to Consent Orders of the National Court requiring him to produce the invoices for the entire period of the liquidation. Two (2) years after he verified a list of documents, the appellant was still looking for copies of the invoices. In fact, he never gave discovery. He was required by law to retain the accounts and records of the liquidation for seven (7) years (section 306 (1)(b) of the Companies Act). We agree with Mr. Brookes that the actions of the appellant have caused the respondent an enormous amount of wasted time, effort and money. We are of the view that the conduct of the appellant was improper, unreasonable and blameworthy.
So Mr Stephens, we are not talking about one Commission of Inquiry report, or one unfavorable court decisions. We are talking about two Commission of Inquiry reports, two Public Accounts Committee inquiries, an Auditor General report, a Supreme Court decision and a National Court decision. That is, seven separate occasions when Rex Paki was alleged to have engaged in misconduct. On all occasions there was convincing evidence to draw this conclusion, they were not mere unfounded accusations.
Surely this is enough proof to raises concerns when Rex Paki is appointed to the Board of a billion kina not-for-profit organization charged with the important duty of promoting the sustainable development and welfare of people in PNG?
Lawrence Stephens | Transparency International
You are wrong! Wrong! Wrong! How dare you suggest TI PNG or I have dismissed the findings of any CoI – see TI dismisses Commission of Inquiry findings. It sounds good as a headline but you know it is far from the truth.
So where do we put a headline which points out that PNG Exposed is involved in astonishing displays of arogant ignorance with its nameless correspondents insulting all Papua New Guineans through blatant disregard for the right of individuals named by commissions of inquirey to have their days in court?
Come on oh nameless ones! Take some deep breaths and ask yourselves if you are really prepared to publicly defend the rights of Papua New Guineans and if it is really necessary for you to throw stones from the shelter of annoninimity. Much as you might like to claim the oppositie there is nothing astonishing in any loyal Papua New Guinean seeing the difference between accusations and convictions. Shame on you, whoever you are.
Let’s go through this once more. Cmmissions of Inquirey look into the issues which give rise to their being convened. They are not courts. Their findings generally raise quetsions as to the behaviour of individuals and groups of individuals whose activities have caused concen. Often there are recommendations made to government and law enforcement agencies that these people be subjected to invesigation and possible prosecution. Until this happens all we have are indications that the CoI saw evidence of possible wrong doing.
Oh nameless one(s) whoever you are. Your efforts to expose wrong and help us do better are greatly appreciated. We thank you for thiese.
There are excellent reasons for us to scrutinise appointees to many positions. There are excellent reasons also to show respect for those with whose activities we may be concerned but against whom no court of law has recorded criminal convictions,
Please do not insult members of TI PNG by suggesting the findings of CoI have been dismissed by them. TI PNG has constantly reminded governemnts and law enforement agencies that these issues have not been addressed. And we will continue to do so.
And please understand that TI PNG exisits to work with government to bring about lasting change in governance, Dpn’t be afraid. Come out in public and join us in our effoorts to encourage PNG to do as well as its people have a right to expect.
In an astonishing statement, Transparency International Chairman Lawrence Stephens has dismissed the findings of two Commissions of Inquiry as ‘unproven accusations’ and says they ‘are not sufficient for responsible people to treat as facts’.
Stephens remarkable comments, which he published on this blog and which are reprinted below, were made in response to questions raised over the role of Rex Paki on the Boards of the Civil Aviation Authority, Bank of PNG and PNG Sustainable Development Program.
Paki has been implicated in the findings of both the Finance Department and National provident Fund Commissions of Inquiry as well as two Public Account Committee investigations and has been labelled by the Supreme Court as “evasive and dishonest”.
But this it seems is all worthless gossip to the Transparency International chief despite the fact the Commissions of Inquiry are conducted by qualified judges, are established under Statute and make findings of fact based on a “strict adherence to principles of natural justice” and “giving all person with an interest in matters before the Commission an opportunity to be heard”.
Stephens is right to say that Rex Paki has never been found guilty on any criminal charges, but to say the findings of a Commission of Inquiry merely raise ‘questions that are of concern’ and that often the ‘accusations prove baseless‘ is very misleading and insulting to the Commissioners.
Stephens is an employee of the PNG Sustainable Development Program.
Statement by Lawrence Stephens
This discussion in relation to Rex Paki draws on some useful sources. It raises questions which are of concern to many people. Questions however are not sufficient for responsible people to treat as facts. People accused are surely entitled to be heard out before being convicted, particularly if the convicting is being done by people who do not even give their real names!
TI PNG views with concern the official and unofficial records of many people holding public office and the disappointing regularity of appointments of reputedly inappropriate individuals to important positions. We are also conscious of the times where accusations prove baseless. Our approach is generally to encourage transparent scrutiny of all public appointments.
We are a partner to government in seeking to improve the manner in which governance is practiced. We do not normally focus on unproven accusations against individuals. We do focus attention on idications that, as a result of corruption, systems are failing or not operating as they should. Often our work is conducted quietly, working with like-minded public office holders and other community organisations, to assist bring about change. Occasionally public comment appears necessary and we are not constrained by relationships with governments, companies and individuals in so responding.
Individual TI PNG directors over the years have had interests in organisations and activities which have been subject to public debate and challenges. This does present the organisation with challenges which need to be worked through. In my experience we have, as a group of concerned individuals encouraging better ethical standards in government and business, faced these challenges without being constrained by our wide network of personal associates across the community.
Prominent Australian Prof Ross Garnaut, already under fire for his extensive links to the environmentally destructive mining industry in Papua New Guinea – link - has chosen to bring “evasive and dishonest” businessman, Rex Paki onto the board of the PNG Sustainable Development Program. Garnaut is the Chairman of PNGSDP.
Over the past 20 years Paki has appeared before two Commission of Inquiries (Finance Department and National Provident Fund), two Public Account Committee Inquiries, and a Supreme Court case where he was slammed by the full court.
Paki was intimately involved in the Paga Hill development in Port Moresby between 1997-2000, a development which has recently been making headlines for forced evictions and corrupt property deals – link.
In January 2004 the Public Acounts Committee reprimanded Paki’s company Ram Business Consultants (RAM) for issuing an “empty cheque” to the Accountants Registration Board, and then “practicing without … formal registration”.
Two years later in a separate investigation – which Paki attempted to block – the PAC found that over an 18 month period (1998-2000) the Public Curator’s Office had paid RAM K1,561,062 (approx US$640,000), without the existence of a contract, proper invoices, or evidence that any work had been done.
Two Commission of Inquiries (COI) also found reason to censure RAM. Following its first appearance, RAM was accused by the COI of receiving “improper benefits” and charging clients “excessive” fees; in the firm’s second appearance, the COI found that RAM had substantially inflated a cash-flow projection, so a prominent client could amplify his damages claim against the state.
In light of these PAC/COI findings, it is perhaps not surprising that most recently in an appearance before the Supreme Court, Salika DCJ, Gabi J and Hartshorn J, described Rax Paki as “evasive and dishonest”, following Paki’s extraordinary efforts to frustrate the process of discovery (Paki was being sued for allegedly overpaying himself as liquidator of Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd).