Madang Provincial Administrator, Bernard Lange, is still refusing to speak about the widespread corruption within his administration or to cooperate with authorities wanting to take action.
Download the Minutes: Minutes Madang PAC 25-4-12 (1.5mb)
The April meeting, which neither Lange or his Provincial Treasurer, Soten Uriah, bothered to attend (as is usual), discussed among other issues:
- ‘Irrefutable evidence of fraud’ in the construction of Dalep market
- Unacquitted cash and travel advances;
- RESI funds misappropriation and ‘clear fraud’;
- Investigation of potential fraud involving Pena and Associates;
- Fraud by Tony Dalton as Collector of Public Monies
- High levels of absenteeism in the office of the Internal Auditor;
- Failure of Divisional Heads to attend Audit Committee meetings;
- Complete lack of accounting records for the Madang Development Committee and no records of proceeds from K700,000 land sale
- Lack of an assets register in the Provincial Works Department
- Purchase of over 200 two-way radios by the Health Division that were never used for there intended purpose
- Cash advance cheque that was cashed by a third-party
A number of these matters have now been referred to the Provincial Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Sylvester Kalaut, for investigation
Exposing the hidden victims and heros of our dysfunctional health system
The state of Papua New Guinea’s Health Service is falling way behind that it now seems, no one cares what happens next. Most of us get pissed and unintentionally get on the doctors and nurses because of the very poor service we get, that costs lives in most cases.
We all have the right to complain and demand to get the best health service because we all pay our share of taxes to the Government all year round-every year for as long as we’re ’employed’. Moreover, the government is allowing a lot of Foreign companies to come into PNG to operate what it terms as ‘Development Projects’, which obviously promises great development.
Have you ever stopped to ask these nurses and doctors why, so as to clearly see if it’s really their fault? This documentary serves to let you know that these ‘government employed’ nurses and doctors behind the white and blue uniforms are just people like you and I, and they too pay taxes, and are suffering more than you can ever imagine.
Regardless of the great negligence, these Angels don’t do favors for fame or glory, they do it to save lives, our lives.
Sam Koim on the front line
By Grant Walton*. Islands Business
For those on the front line, fighting corruption in Papua New Guinea can be a dangerous occupation. It wasn’t that long ago that a former Ombudsman Commissioner was shot. Sam Koim, chairman of PNG’s anti-corruption coordinating body, Taskforce Sweep, knows all about the dangers that come with the job
In February this year, his office was ransacked. In a video footage of the aftermath, Koim looks down the camera lens in defiance; he asserts that the incident will not deter him or his team. The office of Taskforce Sweep was targeted because of its success. It has registered over 200 cases of corruption, and recovered over 68 million Kina (around A$32 million). This has meant Koim has become somewhat of a celebrity, sought by the media, researchers and policy makers. Despite his busy schedule, I managed to catch up with him while he was in Geelong for a symposium on PNG at Deakin University.
This blog post, based on our conversation, reports on Koim’s perceptions about corruption, the taskforce, new anti-corruption organisations, the challenges facing anti-corruption organisations, solutions and the road ahead.
Taskforce Sweep is a multi-agency taskforce that was established by the national government of PNG in August 2011. Initially set up to investigate allegations aimed at the Department of National Planning, the taskforce’s mandate was subsequently extended to cover other government departments. Koim told me the government recently agreed to support Taskforce Sweep until arrangements for a new anti-corruption institution are decided.
As outlined in PNG’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010-2030, this new institution is likely to be an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Establishing an ICAC in PNG is not a new idea. In the late 1990s, a proposed Organic Law on the Independent Commission Against Corruption failed to win parliamentary support.
There is still concern about creating an ICAC in PNG: some fear it would suck resources from established anti-corruption organisations, such as the highly regarded but poorly resourced Ombudsman Commission. Koim was aware of these concerns, and acknowledged that any new anti-corruption institution could potentially ‘divert government attention away from existing agencies, or cause territorial conflicts [between agencies]’.
However, he was adamant that an ICAC could be effective if it was ‘appropriate for PNG’. This meant that any new institution should integrate into existing government systems and reflect local values. Koim warned against importing an ICAC model—such as those from New South Wales or Hong Kong—without considering the local context. To account for local complexities, he said that moves to install a new anti-corruption organisation must slowly evolve.
Asked to reflect on the initial achievements of Taskforce Sweep, he was modest, saying that he would leave it up to others to judge. But he was satisfied with the ‘amount of deterrents that are being created’. He noted that, ‘in the past, people would do anything and steal [with impunity]; but now they know that somebody’s looking over their shoulders’.
While Taskforce Sweep has recovered stolen money and has helped with the arrest of suspects, its conviction record is yet to be established. On this front, Koim hopes that he and others can learn from Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). Until recently the KPK had an impressive 100% conviction rate for corruption cases.
Australian media has quoted Koim as saying that half of PNG’s 7.6 billion kina development budget was lost to corruption between 2009 and 2011.
Even with the difficulties of measuring corruption (corruption is conducted in secret, making the extent of the problem difficult to gauge), this estimate is astounding. Why has corruption become a problem in PNG? In response, Koim linked corruption to inequality. Seeing, reading and hearing about money in the midst of poverty brings about ‘frustration’, that means many Papua New Guineans don’t feel compelled to play by the rules, he said.
He added that, as an ‘inclusive society’, many people benefit from corruption, which means they are less inclined to speak out against it. He was particularly concerned about the pressure on government workers to provide for their wantoks—literally ‘one talk’, a system of obligation between kin—means many public servants look for ways to augment their salary.
The Australian press also heavily publicised Koim’s concerns that Australia had become the preferred destination for money gained corruptly—in October 2012, he called Australia the Cayman Islands of PNG. Koim didn’t back away from these comments. But he did say he’s been happy with the way Australian officials have worked with him and his team since his speech.
While wary about revealing details, he suggested that Australia is now doing a better job of identifying suspicious transactions from PNG and monitoring those accused of corruption. This is perhaps evidenced by the recent seizure of businessman Eremas Wartoto’s Queensland property by Australian authorities, and the cancelling of his 457 visa. Wartoto is accused of misappropriating more than A$30 million from the PNG government.
No discussion about corruption in the country would be complete without exploring PNG’s multi-billion kina question: what is to be done?
Koim believes that corruption can be curtailed in PNG through three interlinked strategies. First, there needs to be greater focus on training honest public servants about the principles of good governance. Second, he wants to see government departments better coordinate their anti-corruption responses. And finally, he would like to see legislative reform. As outlined in his speech during Deakin’s symposium on PNG, he believes that laws need to be revised to better reflect PNG’s diverse cultures.
He would also like to see a stricter enforcement of the country’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2005—an act that was considered ineffective by 2011 report by the World Bank and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. But all this, he suggests, will require political will, resources and incentives. In PNG, government departments and politicians need to actively support anti-corruption reform . He called for Australia to provide more money for anti-corruption initiatives. He also suggested that Australia conditions its aid by allocating money to PNG based on the PNG government’s willingness to tackle corruption.
There’s not doubt that Koim and his team have achieved much despite the dangers associated with anti-corruption work in the country. Onlookers wait to see if these efforts translate into convictions and what role Australia and other donors will play in supporting anti-corruption efforts in the future.
As he suggests, if PNG does decide to establish an ICAC, it is critical that support for this new institution, through donors and the government, does not undermine existing anti-corruption efforts. It is also important that this organisation be free from political interference and be able to reel in the big fish—those at the top of the corruption food chain—no matter who they are.
In the meantime, Koim and his team continue their fight against corruption. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
*Research Fellow at the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre.
Madang Provincial Administrator Bernard Lange is accused of improper behaviour over the payment of K500,000 to a group of landowners. It is alleged the payment was made against the advice of senior officials, made without proper procedures being followed and was organized in just 48 hours after Lange put pressure on the Provisional Treasurer to release the cheque.
The Director Natural Resources, Francis Irara, has written to the Provincial Treasurer to voice his concerns about the legality of the payment.
In the briefing paper prepared by Irara he says the K500,000 cheque was personally obtained by Bernard Lange who pressured the Treasuruer to relaese the payment. The cheque was given by Lange to MP Alois Kingsley to present to the landowners. Irara says the whole transaction was organized in just two days.
PNGExposed has received more details about Madang Provincial Administrator, Bernard Lange’s obstruction of efforts to tackle the endemic corruption in his administration.
Since we revealed the letters from the Secretary of Finance in Port Moresby requesting Lange to attend Provincial Audit Committee meetings and provide the committee with the information it needs to carry out its investigations, a number of sources have stepped forward with further information.
These sources have revealed that rather than complying with the instructions from Port Moresby and assisting the committee the February meeting of the Audit Committee was cancelled as the Chair was ill and two subsequent scheduled meetings were cancelled as Lange was “not available”.
Finally, both Lange and his Treasurer, Soten Uriah, turned up to the June meeting (eight months after they had received their letters from the Department of Finance). The pair did table some reports but they were not circulated to the Committee members before the meeting . These were complex financial reports which required careful reading and consideration. When the Chair of the committee suggested that the start of the meeting be deferred for an hour or so to allow members time to read the reports, Lange said there was no time for that as he had to be leaving soon. The meeting was therefore unable to engage in any meaning consideration of the information provided.
The Chairman, as we know, subsequently resigned over the lack of cooperation from the Administrator and his failure to support efforts to tackle corruption.
The Madang Provincial administration is starting to leak like a sieve – which shows there are some honest public servants.
Madang Administrator Bernard Lange and his Treasurer have ignored instructions from the Department of Finance in Port Moresby to clean up the endemic corruption in their offices.
We have already revealed the Chair of the Madang Provincial Audit Committee has resigned over the lack of action on corruption and provided examples of the type of corruption that plagues the Province. In response a number of sources have come forward with further information.
The letters below show the Department of Finance in Port Moresby has had to write to both Lange and Treasurer Soten Uriah requiring they attend Provincial Audit Committee meetings set up to tackle instances of corruption. Sources have further confirmed that although both men have managed to attend at least one meeting of the Audit Committee since the letters were received they have failed to provide the Committee with the documentation and other information it has requested or to ensure other Divisional Heads attend and cooperate. This deprives the Committee of the information it requests and the authority required to fulfill its functions.