Home > Corruption, Papua New Guinea > Are District Courts frustrating anti-corruption efforts in PNG?

Are District Courts frustrating anti-corruption efforts in PNG?

November 8, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Before an indictable (serious) offence can be tried in the National Court, a committal proceeding is held at the District Court. At committal proceedings a Magistrate must determine whether there is enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial. They are not required to decide guilt.

Over the past year it has become apparent that many people being committed for offences relating to corruption and misappropriation are having their charges dismissed by the District Court, without adequate reason. And although the District Court is a court of record, verbal decisions are rarely recorded. As a result, their decisions cannot be properly scrutinised by the public.

To use a recent example. Task Force Sweep accused Pastor Michael Kui of misappropriating K100,000 from the Department of National Planning and Monitoring (DPM) in 2011. It was alleged that Pastor Kui had been awarded K100,000 by the DPM to purchase two Lucas Sawmills, to facilitate small scale logging in Mount Hagen. Instead it was claimed, the K100,000 was used by Pastor Kui to purchase day old chickens and stock-feed for the Kerekamb Island Cooperative Society, while K10,000 was given to the local church.

The District Court dismissed the charges. In an oral decision that was reported in the Post-Courier, Senior Magistrate Robert Teko claimed:

“Pastor, the court has not found you guilty in misappropriating K100,000 for the Department of National Planning and Monitoring. You have not been dishonest. It’s just that you have used the K100,000 from the DPM to purchase day old chicken and stock feeds for the Kerekamb Island Co-operative Society members instead of completing Lucas sawmill as your initial proposal to the DPM”.

Two points arise from this decision.

  • The Magistrate acknowledges that Pastor Kui misappropriated the funds meant for Lucas Sawmills, for a purpose that not approved by the DPM, yet he claims the Pastor is not guilty of misappropriation. This is a contradiction in terms. However, without a written decision issued by the court, we have no way of scrutinising this curious decision further
  • It is not the proper role of the District Court to determine guilt – or otherwise – during committal proceedings.

Are we now in the situation where PNG’s anti-fraud investigators can no longer score legitimate goals, because Magistrates are acting as goal keepers for the corrupt? If this is true, PNG’s democracy is under grave threat.

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  1. vavvv
    November 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Sam Koim and his team must commended for their efforts for exposing corruption in PNG with limited resources. Few points I’ve noticed:
    – Does the Task Force Sweep has the powers to prosecute those implicated?
    – The Governor of SHP, William Powi denied owning any proper in Australian. How in the whole world would QLD property registrar go wrong in providing list of PNG investors. Their system is so robust that any information can be pumped out in 2 minutes.How can he be so dumb with such a blunt statement of innocence in the 2 dailies.

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