Is there something fishy about Bougainville’s new Vice President?
The Autonomous Bougainville Government, under the leadership of President John Momis, is not shy about appointing criminals to Cabinet positions. Take the example of Fidelis Semoso, Minister for Economic Development, the National Court found he was part of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the state of K2.7 million, which came at the cost of Buka General Hospital.
Now we have been informed that President Momis has appointed a new Vice President, Raymond Masono, following the resignation of Patrick Nisira (another man not unknown to this blog!).
While Masono is better known as the former Minister for Public Services and Director of the Office of Panguna Negotiations, his business activities have not been in the public eye.
We can reveal that Masono jointly owns a company Bougainville Seaweed Limited, which has been in receipt of multiple large payments from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, at a time when Masono was a senior civil servant.
Company records show that Masono owns 1/3 of Bougainville Seaweed Limited, the remaining 2/3 of the company is split evenly between Albert Kinani and Kenneth Kumul, both publc servants.
Drawing from leaked financial data detailing Autonomous Bougainville Government expenditure in 2014, it can be confirmed that Bougainville Seaweed Limited was paid in total K290,000 by the Bougainville government during August of that year.
The first payment occurred on 12/8/2014. In total K190,000 was paid to Bougainville Seaweed Limited for ‘Atolls Area Farming Of Seaweed’.
Several weeks later, on 25/8/2014, a second payment of K100,000 was made for ‘Feasibility Study On Seaweed Farming’.
When these payments were made Raymond Masono was Director of the Office of Panguna Negotiation, Kinani was Secretary for Commerce, and Kumul was Atolls District Sea Weed Farming Coordinator.
Given that the ABG has its own holding companies set up to run state enterprises, there appears to be no legitimate reason why this company would be owned by three public officials (especially by one whose job title has nothing to do with seaweed farming). This also has to be set against a backdrop of criminality and corruption within the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which has been well documented on this blog.
On top of this revelation it is likely that Masono, in his capacity as Bougainville Seaweed Limited’s Director, has been submitting incorrect information to the Investment Promotion Authority. For example in Bougainville Seaweed’s 2014 Annual Return, Masono claims that the company had net assets of a mere K3, and 1 full time employee, despite being paid K290,000 by the ABG alone in August. It also appears that the company was also in receipt of EU money during 2014. If Masono knowingly submitted false information, this is a criminal offence under section 420 of the Company Act 1997.
This activity must also be read against the Leadership Code set out in Constitution of Bougainville which states ‘a person to whom this Part applies has a duty to conduct himself in such a way, in his public or official life and in his private life and in associations with other persons, as to comply with the long-established standards of customary leadership in Bougainville, including trustworthiness, transparency, and acting in the interests of, and as custodian of wealth for the People, and not for personal gain’.
It continues: ‘A person to whom this Part applies has a duty to conduct himself in such a way, both in his public or official life and in his private life and in associations with other persons, as not to –
- place himself in a position in which he has or could have a conflict of interests or might be compromised when discharging his public or official duties; or
- demean his office or position; or
- allow his public or official integrity, or his personal integrity, to be called into question; or
- endanger or diminish respect for and confidence in the integrity of government in Bougainville’.
It remains to be seen whether Vice President Masono has met this standard with respect to Bougainville Seaweed Limited.