National Provident Fund Final Report [Part 82]
Below is the eighty-second part of the serialized edited version of the National Provident Fund Commission of Inquiry Final Report that first appeared in the Post Courier newspaper in 2002/3.
NPF Final Report
This is the 82nd extract from the National Provident Fund (now known as NASFUND) Commission of Inquiry report. The inquiry was conducted by retired justice Tos Barnett and investigated widespread misuse of member funds. The report recommended action be taken against several high-profile leaders, including former NPF chairman Jimmy Maladina. The report was tabled in Parliament on November 20 by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.
Executive Summary Schedule 9 Continued
Fees Paid to accountants in 1996 1997 and 1998
The situation in 1998 remained basically the same as the previous three years. However, as far as outsourcing of accounting work was concerned, a significant part of the costs at the end of 1998 was charged to 1999 accounting cost.
When Noel Wright (a qualified chartered accountant) left in January 1999, the responsibility for the accounting positionmoved to Salome Dopeke.
The commission finds that Ms Dopeke was not suitably qualified and experienced and lacked appropriate skills to take on this role. A draft section 8 letter prepared by the authorised auditors for the year ended December 31, 1998, included items that deal with weaknesses in the accounting area and requested NPF to address these weaknesses.
NPF therefore sought out accounting firms to assist them in having their accounts brought up to date.
Appointment Of Ram Business Consultants (Ram)
Jimmy Maladina engaged this firm as auditors and investigators for Crocodile Catering. The engagement was made without reference to the Crocodile board or the shareholders, (the NPF board). This appointment was made contrary to proper tender procedures. This firm was also most expensive. This commission considers the fees charged by Ram were excessive for the actual time they worked for NPF.
Appointment Of Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC)
Fees paid to PwC were related to several distinct engagements. This commission found that work performed by PwC was agreed to in advance between NPF and the firm, and was confirmed by a letter of engagement. It is noted that NPF sought quotes before engaging PwC.
Fees paid to Accountants in 2000 relating to 1998 and 1999 financial statements
In 1998 and 1999, KPMG billed additional audit fees direct to NPF for additional work in assisting NPF in the preparation of their annual financial statements in a format compatible with International Accounting Standards.
Tender Procedures Adopted In November 1999.
From 1995 to 1999, NPF management used its discretion to appoint key advisors and professional service providers. Then in early 1999, chairman Mr Maladina made the appointments without reference to the NPF board. This is contrary to normal procedures used by NPF in the procurement of professional services, including accountants.
At paragraph 8.9.6, the commission has found that:
(a) During the period January 1, 1995 to December 31, 1999, NPF engaged the services of the following accounting firms for various accounting and tax related services:
- Ernst & Young in the period 1995 to 1998 as tax agents and tax advisers;
- Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in 1999 as tax agents and tax advisers and to do sundry accounting services with regard to the Ambusa Copra Oil Mill Project;
- PwC in 1999 as business advisers including inter alia a review of the fund’s investment portfolio and a review of the financial position at December 1999;
- Ram in 1999 for accounting assistance (and in particular the completion of bank reconciliations for 1998);
- Auditor-General — for the 1995 to 1997 financial years authorised auditor was Deloitte Touche and for 1998 to 1999, the authorised auditor was KPMG;
(b) Almost without exception, NPF did not seek to tender the fund’s tax and accounting related work and as such NPF management failed to ensure the fund received the most cost effective service during the period 1995 to 1999;
(c) Following the departure of Mr Wright in January 1999, the weaknesses in the fund’s accounting systems and resources resulted in the need for the fund to out source accounting and business advice from the abovementioned professional accounting firms;
(d) These weaknesses in the accounting function also resulted in the significantly high level of additional audit costs levied by the authorised auditors, KPMG. In relation to the 1998 and 1999 financial statements, KPMG billed NPF direct contrary to normal procedures where audit fees are usually billed by the Auditor-General;
(e) With the exception of Ram, there is no evidence that favouritism or nepotism existed in the appointment of any of the professional firms. However, the lack of transparency and tender procedures in the appointment of these professional firms leaves a general suspicion that favouritism may have existed in relation to non-audit services, particularly with regard to Ram;
(f) There is considerable evidence connecting Rex Paki of Ram and Mr Maladina during the time that Mr Maladina and Mr Leahy were actively conspiring to defraud the NPF. Mr Paki also received benefits in the form of cash and airfares from the proceeds of those frauds;
(g) Examining the process of appointing Ram to provide services for NPF, the commission finds that it was similar to Mr Maladina’s improper appointment of Ram as financial consultant for Crocodile (see Schedule 3A);
(h) On all the evidence, the commission finds that the appointment of Ram by the NPF board, which was not properly briefed, was strongly influenced by Mr Maladina. Mr Maladina’s co-conspirator in the criminal conspiracy to defraud NPF, Herman Leahy, then proceeded to approve the payment of Ram’s excessive fees without seeking the required NPF board approvals.
(i) The commission finds that the appointment of Ram and the payment of their excessive fees on the approval of Mr Leahy constituted nepotism within the meaning of the commission’s terms of reference;
(j) There also exists a significant level of concern as to the probity or otherwise of fees charged by Ram. The limited documentary evidence in the form of the working papers, fees and correspondence files, produced under summons to this commission by Ram, to support the fees paid by NPF, indicates that the fees charged by Ram were excessive.
(k) Management acted in excess of their delegated financial authority by approving Ram’s fees without referring them to the board.
Other Professional Services
During the period covered by this review (1995 to 1999), NPF hired other firms to carry out specific work requirements. These firms are:
- Hay Group of Companies;
- Ken Yapane and Associates
- Freehill Hollingworth and Page;
- E&S Groups;
- Minao Surveys; and
- Sogu Works.
The finance inspectors closely scrutinised the arrangements between NPF and the above firms and concluded they were in order, with the exception of Ken Yapane and Associates. The commission accepts and agrees with those findings.