Home > Corruption, mining, oil palm, Papua New Guinea > Bougainville’s President Momis must explain widespread financial mismanagement

Bougainville’s President Momis must explain widespread financial mismanagement

Bougainville’s President Momis has launched a scathing attack on villagers across Bougainville looking for economic alternatives to large-scale mining. Speaking on New Dawn he demanded they produce a coherent economic plan for turning ‘tomato sales’ into sustainable revenues.

The issue of economic accountability is an important one, here are five reasons President Momis should not be exempt.

1. The Torokina Oil Palm Project and Sir Henry Chow

President Momis must explain why during 2010/11 the Torokina oil palm project received ten million Kina in government grants, and what, if any benefits, the people of Bougainville have received for investing nearly the entire ABG agricultural development budget on one project? He must also explain any benefits which Sir Henry Chow received from these grants, through Hakau Investment Limited or any other company owned by Chow.

Given that the Torokina oil palm plantation was expected to bear fruit by 2014, can the President explain what has happened since 2011?

In March 2013 Islands Business reported that the ABG Public Accounts Committee would ‘inquire into the two joint ventures done by the ABG with the Hakau Investment on the Torokina Oil Palm Project, and the China Business Corporation’. Can the President report back on the findings of these investigations?

Torokina Oil Palm Project

2. Employing Hedge Fund Traders as ‘Development’ Advisors

In 2012 President Momis employed public revenues to contract a hedge fund, Seagate Global, led by US expatriate, William Lawton, to become his ‘economic and development Advisor’. Seagate claims it was hired ‘to design and implement comprehensive community and economic development in Bougainville’. How much has the President spent on this contract? What tangible outcomes has this had for the people of Bougainville who have little interest in hedge funds? Why did the President choose a financial speculator to advise him on rural development?

In 2013 Seagate Global stated on their website ‘Seagate Global is the economic and Development Advisor to the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the location of the Panguna mine, one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world, and a country rich in numerous resources’. The page also states, ‘Seagate Global entered the mining business as one of the best ways to help people’. The first statement was subsequently removed from the company’s website! The President must explain whether Seagate Global has obtained any tangible interests in Bougainville’s natural resources through its relationship with the ABG?

3. Joint-Venture with Filipino Business Accused of Human Rights Abuses

Following visits to the Philippines President John Momis has engaged the ABG in a joint-venture with Filipino executives allegedly involved in land-grabbing, violence against landowners, illegal labour practices, and environment breaches (the full scandal was exposed here).  How much money has the ABG spent on Bougainville POGE Development and its ventures with Filipino businessmen the subject of serious human rights allegations? How much has the ABG spent flying the President and his wife around the Philippines? During his extensive foreign travels has the President received any gifts from foreign companies?

4. The Panguna Mine Fiasco

Then there is the Panguna mine scandal. Before President Momis began expending significant sums of government revenues on mining – including on the Office of Panguna Mine Negotiations, an expanded Mining Division and extensive foreign advice – did he conduct an economic and social feasibility study to ensure this was money well spent?

After all, we know that the expert advice given to the ABG and the Australian government in 2008 was that reopening Panguna would be heavily resisted by landowning communities, and a potential spark for heightened tension. As a result they were advised ‘in the interim, a strategy for economic recovery through agricultural production appears the most viable among the possibilities’.

Did President Momis conduct any study that overturned these findings, and offered a strong evidence base suggesting that the significant government investment in reopening Panguna had a strong chance of bearing fruits?

And if he is to be transparent, President Momis should reveal how much has been spent on this ill-fated exercise to reopen Panguna, including money that has come from donor organisations such as the Australian government and World Bank.

5. The Public Housing Crisis

The President was also warned by auditors that public housing in Bougainville was being abused by some public servants who were not paying rent, while retired and retrenched staff were monopolising public properties. Given many public servants are forced to find housing on the inflated private market, has he done anything to rectify the abuse of public housing?

  1. Donato
    January 7, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Very good! But of course the President will shoot these down as mere allegations and pure speculation.

    It must dawn on us by now that in Bougainville, or AROB for want of a more autonomous impression, is a place where you can get away with a lot of things, including blue murder. That means if you are a President, you can virtually get away with anything. You are beyond reproach. And if you are a former priest with reverent support from the local Bishop and Catholic stalwarts of many extractions or nationalities like Henry Chow or “professor” Tupaz you are sure to get divine pardon or have the books cooked for you.

    Where is Bougainville going? Or more to the point, where is Momis taking us? We will keep asking these and many of the same questions we have been asking for the last five years. Unless there is a miracle or revolt at the forthcoming polls, the odds of Momis losing the President are as long as the meandering flow of Jaba River from its source in Panguna down to Empress Augusta Bay and as wide as Empress Augusta Bay itself.

    On his side, despite the allegations and criticisms against him by some, Momis as President has not done anything drastically wrong. How can any leader do anything wrong or right if he is not doing anything.

    Bougainville is tired, impaired, very peremptory and perfunctory and the signs are everywhere. This is an attitude, or a position if you like, of a population that is largely self sufficient and does not have to live and feed on hand-outs from the government.

    When all is said and done – and blogged in social media such as here – the bottom line is, Bougainvilleans do not have to worry about survival. They will continue to live and prosper as they always have in their life times through generations, on the Land.

    It is the the Mother land that always provides. The Land is the ultimate capital. Not politicians, not governments, not the President and his Ministers. This is why the People will fight and protect the Land with their lives. This is why the President will continue to confront opposition in Panguna or with other schemes involving outsiders like the doomed Torokina oil palm project.

    To all the critics and adversaries of the President, foreign and local, you will have to put up with another five years of John Momis as President after the forthcoming elections mid this year. His victory will be no skin of the noses of most Bougainvilleans as they will be contented with the “devil they know than any new devil”.

    Why can’t Bougainville grow a sustainable economy to prop itself as an independent state, on red tomatoes? Just imagine where we would get to if every family and household was introduced to hydroponic tomatoes, tree tomatoes and sale of choicest cocoa beans to NZ yachts to be turned into chocolates in the Hutt Valley.

    May be the fable of Jack and the Beanstalk has relevance when our new ABG planners come to realize the gory truth that if you cannot build an independent Bougainville on agricultural produce we might at least use Jack and his Beanstalk as a stairway to Heaven to go and find out up there what it is we are not doing quite right in Bougainville.

  1. January 19, 2015 at 8:01 am
  2. January 20, 2015 at 6:28 am
  3. April 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm
  4. April 21, 2015 at 8:10 am
  5. January 30, 2017 at 10:18 am

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