Lands Secretary suspended but corruption remains
Secretary for Lands Romily Kila-Pat has finally been suspended – you can read some of the newspaper coverage from last week below – but the corruption in the Lands Department has yet to be properly addressed.
Kila-Pat, like his predecessor Pepi Kimas, has overseen numerous illegal lands deals and was infamously involved in many of the unlawful SABL leases – but the corruption in the Lands Department runs far deeper and two important questions need answering:
- Why has it taken so long for any action to be taken against Kila-Pat?
- When are we going to see decisive and effective action – including criminal prosecutions – against all the Lands officers involved in corrupt deals?
For evidence of the depth of the problems in the Lands Department we need look no further than Minister Benny Allen. This is what he said in October 2012:
“I have seen first hand the blatant abuse of due process thereby promoting corruption and high level of inefficiency within the Department of Lands and Physical Planning. The system of land administration is corrupt and dysfunctional.”
But it was a full year later before, in September 2013, the Minister said he had set up a special investigation team to look at all the questionable land deals within his department. But we never heard anything more about that investigation team and can only presume it was just a cover story for continuing business as usual.
So, the Minister has sat back for three years and done nothing about the corruption – it is easy to conclude why…
In 2013 the SABL Commission of Inquiry identified Kila-Pat’s role in many of the unlawful SABL leases – but bizarrely the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill left Kila-Pat as Secretary while at the same time promising action to cancel the leases.
Of course those promises from our Prime Minister have never been fulfilled. It is easy to conclude why…
As far back as 2007 the Public Accounts Committee declared:
‘The Department of Lands and Physical Planning has become an arm of private enterprise [who is] responsible for allocating Leases regardless of the Law and to the very considerable cost of the State and the citizens of Papua New Guinea’.
But of course the politicians just looked on and did nothing to investigate the leases or deal with the Lands officers involved – any suggestions why that might have been?
Even the courts have noted and condemned the corruption in the Department of Lands. This was Justice Kandakasi just a few months ago:
“Sitting in the National and Supreme Courts for a while now, I have come across more cases of possible fraud facilitated by the Registrar of Titles and other officers of the Department of Lands. This must stop and the only way to do that is to have proper investigations and those responsible being criminally charged and proceeded with. I would therefore strongly recommend (since I cannot direct the police) that the police take the relevant and necessary steps right away”.
Our new Secretary for Lands says his Department is riddled with corruption and he wants more transparency (see news story below). But..
- When will see any of the SABL leases canceled?
- When will we see see any other Lands Department officers suspended?
- When will we see them and Kila-Pat prosecuted?
These are the questions Sipison needs to answer if we are not to view his appointment as anything other than short-term political expediency designed to lift the heat before the corruption continues as usual…
Sipison wants transparency
Source: The National, Friday September 25th, 2015
Acting Lands and Physical Planning Secretary Luther Sipison aims to bring about more “transparency” in the department after years of allegations of corruption by officers.
He said that after his appointment was formally gazetted on Wednesday and his predecessor Romily Kila Pat suspended.
“The people deserve to be informed of what is happening (within the department),” Sipison said.
“I’m taking up the office with transparency.
“The office belongs to the seven million people of this country.
“They must know what is happening within this office, within the department.”
Sipison said the gazettal was “long overdue”.
“They should have done it after the suspension but it’s taken three weeks. We have a special executive meeting (today) and we go from there.”
State confirms Lands position
Source: The National, Thursday September 24th, 2015
THE Government has confirmed in a gazette the suspension of Romilly Kila Pat as Lands and Physical Planning secretary, and the appointment of Luther Sipison in an acting capacity.
The gazette dated yesterday, Sept 23, was signed by acting Governor-General Theodore Zurenuoc.
It is effective from Sept 3. Sipison is acting secretary for three months.
Sipison had complained on Monday that Kila Pat was still occupying the office, thus creating confusion among staff members.
Kila Pat in response said he had not been served any formal notice about his suspension, thus would remain in office until such time he received one. “It’s simple: I have not been officially advised by the relevant authorities,” he told The National.
“I’m aware of my suspension. But normally the process is, once the NEC makes a decision, the Prime Minister signs that decision.
“It goes back again through the process, being noted by NEC, and it goes through the people who administer my contract, the Department of Personnel Management, who make an acting appointment. That appointment gets gazetted and they will formally convey it to me.
“I need to know these things properly. I need to hand over responsibilities to the acting appointment, who is one of my deputy secretaries (Sipison).”
Corrupted land deal allegations rife: Sipison
Source: The National, Wednesday September 23rd, 2015
Acting Lands and Physical Planning Acting Secretary Luther Sipison admits that his department is teeming with allegations of corrupt land deals by his officers.
Sipison, who is now in the hot seat following the suspension of Romily Kila Pat by the National Executive Council earlier this month, made the frank admission in an interview with The National on Monday.
“I think the problem (corruption) is a chronic one that has existed for a long time and it’s going to take a while to address this issue,” he said.
“If we are going to be true and transparent in our dealings, maybe what we can do is to reshuffle staff – it’s about corruption within the department, not management.
“To address this, we have to look at the reasons behind this happening within the department and a culture that allows this to exist.
“It’s quite complex. It’s not a matter of you changing the secretary and everything will just change.
“I’m confident that we have good people within the department.
“We can start from some place to change the department’s image and its future.”
Sipison has moved in fast to address claims by real estate businessman Michael Kandiu that he was a victim of fraudulent deals by the department.
Kandiu claimed that his land at Portion 1671 (Bomana), Granville, National Capital District, was forfeited by the department.
“I’m going to do my bit to address issues. I think the best thing to do is to expose the rot that exists within the department.”
Kila Pat refuses to leave office
Source: The National, Tuesday September 22nd, 2015
SUSPENDED Lands and Physical Planning secretary Romily Kila Pat, pictured, is refusing to vacate his office, according to acting secretary Luther Sipison.
Sipison, who was appointed acting secretary by Cabinet on September 3, told The National yesterday that it was creating confusion in the department.
But Kila Pat yesterday clarified that he had not been served a formal suspension notice, hence, would remain in office.
Sipison said: “The appointment was made three weeks ago but I am still to move into the office because the suspended secretary (Kila Pat) is still in the office.
“He’s claiming that he hasn’t been formally notified (of his suspension) by the Department of Personnel Management.
“That’s why he’s still in there. Protocol is for me to sign the instruments.
“But why is it taking too long? I do not know.
“This will be the fourth week,” he said.
Sipison said the National Executive Council had already made the decision. “The decision has been made and those responsible for that decision must do the right thing so that there is a smooth handover, so that my appointment can come into effect and we move on in the department,” he said.
“Morale in the department is low, the staff are confused.
“The suspension has been made but the suspended secretary is still running the show.”
Sipison said Kila Pat was suspended over a number of allegations against him on land deals.
“I was appointed on September 3 by the National Executive Council,” Sipison said.
“That process has to go through the normal gazettal, but I haven’t sighted it as yet.”
Kila Pat when contacted said: “I am still in office.
“It’s simple. I have not been officially advised by the relevant authorities.
“I’m aware of my suspension, but normally the process is I’m a contract officer.
“Once the National Executive Council makes a decision, the Prime Minister signs that decision.
“It goes back again through the process, being noted by the National Executive Council, and it goes through the people who administer my contract, the Department of Personnel Management, who make an acting appointment.
“That appointment gets gazetted and they will formally convey it to me.
“The decision by National Executive Council is a decision until it goes through this process.
“I need to know these things properly.
“I need to hand over responsibilities to the acting appointment, who is one of my deputy secretaries (Sipison).”
Kila-Pat said he had already spoken with Sipison.
“I’ve spoken with him (Sipison) already. It’s okay,” he said.
“It’s the decision of the government.
“Whatever the allegations are against me, I will respond to them.
“My being in office is just to maintain continuity.
“I’m just waiting for the decision. Once I get it, I’m gone,” Kila Pat said.