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Lands Secretary suspended but corruption remains

September 29, 2015 1 comment

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:

  1. Why has it taken so long for any action to be taken against Kila-Pat?
  2. 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.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: Corrupt officials to block SABL reforms

July 1, 2014 3 comments

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The same corrupt officials in the Department of Lands who facilitated the illegal SABL land grab are now blocking the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry recommendation to revoke the unlawful leases, as Radio Australia reveals below.

While sitting on the Commission of Inquiry report for more than a year the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Lands Minister Benny Allen have failed to act on promises to eradicate the corruption and remove the officers responsible. They  have even left one of the main facilitators of the land grab, Romilly Kila-Pat, as Secretary of the Department!

Return of titles to PNG land scandal victims delayed

By Jemima Garrett for ABC Radio Australia

Critics say the leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and many have been granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC licensed)

The leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and have been granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC licensed)

The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.

The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.

Lands Department Secretary Romily Kila-Pat last week told Pacific Beat hundreds of thousands of affected landowners could expect to have their land back by Monday, but it has been revealed that it will take longer than a week to process the cancellation of leases.

His comments came after PNG’s National Executive Council (NEC) ordered the cancellation of 25 Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) as recommended by a Commission of Inquiry.

Land Titles Registrar Benjamin Samson is overseeing the cancellation of leases and says the legal process will take longer than a week.

“By law we have to give [the leaseholders] 14 working days for them to deliver up the title, the owner’s copy that is in the hands of the leaseholders,” he said.

Mr Samson says the process is more involved than previously indicated, requiring ordering of summons for the 25 SABLs before lease cancellation.

“The law is designed as such that before cancellation is to be done a notice, which is called a summons has to be issued to the respective leaseholders,” he said.

“[Because] some leaseholders might want to challenge the decision that we would undertake but I mean, as the agent of state, we are here to comply with the decision of the government of the day so that is another matter for the leaseholders to pursue.”

Mr Samson says the return of land could be delayed further in the likely event that leaseholders decide to challenge the NEC’s decision in court.

“Well, if they do obtain an injunction, if the matter goes before the court, then of course we will have to await the outcome of the court decision before the cancellation can be fully-effected,” he said.

“I think a number of leaseholders, especially those lease-holders or those companies, who on the ground have expended a lot of money, they might want to pursue it in court but I am not sure.

“We will wait and see if we are served those court documents or not.”

Mr Samson expects the first leases to be cancelled by mid-July.

National Alliance plans to turn Madang Province into Philippines style industrial zone

June 14, 2011 3 comments

Papua New Guinea’s ruling National Alliance party wants to make the Province of Madang into a Philippines style industrial zone using a combination of corporate tax exemptions and Chinese investment and labour.

The plan, which is championed by the Attorney General, and ex Madang governor, Arnold Amet, and current governor James Gau, was the focus of a recent trip to the Philippine’s by a delegation of bureaucrats and local leaders to the Subic Bay Freeport, established in 1992.

The National Alliance plan will see Madang become the mining capital of PNG with both the huge Ramu nickel and Yandera gold and copper mines pumping their toxic tailings in to the sea. Both mines are being developed by Chinese companies..

In addition the government wants to see up to 10 tuna canneries operating as part of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone. The PMIZ is to be built by another Chinese company using funds loaned to PNG by the Chinese Export-Import bank.

The PMIZ will be designated by the government as a Special Economic Zone which means it will offer generous tax exemptions to foreign companies and operate as a fenced enclosure with private security to prevent unauthorized access. With the Zone normal migration, labour, health and safety and environmental laws will not apply.

The plan for the industrialization of Madang by the Chinese is also backed by former National Alliance minister and local businessman Peter Barter, owner of the Madang Resort hotel and a passionate supporter of Chinese investment. Barter features photos of the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine on the menu’s in his restaurants.

The delegation to the Philippines, the second to visit in the last two year, was headed by Provincial Administrator, Bernard Lange.

Also on the trip was Stotick Kamya, chairman of Commerce and Industry and former ‘community relations’ officer at RD Tuna; Nalon Derr, from Siar village, who ran for election in 2007 and is first secretary at the Governor’s Office; Emil Gamog, a ‘community representative’ who works closely with disgraced former governor James Yali and was involved in the hijacking of the plaintiffs in the Ramu nickel mine marine dumping case last year; Babob Gatedai, senior planner and Riwo village resident; Maryanne Uraiwa, project partner representative and manager, National Development Bank; Paul Martin, Industry and Investment coordinator; Mario Berom Angurru, Fisheries Advisor, Madang provincial government; and Clarence Hoot, director, Investment Promotions Authority.

After a similar trip to the Philippines in 2009, one local leader, Framcis Gem told his people that he had not been impressed with what he saw. He described the Freeport as a zoo which had displaced local people and polluted the sea. Gemn recently challenged Environment Minister, Benny Allan, and other Ministers at a public forum on PMIZ saying of PMIZ

“It’s con job! And all of you sitting on this grandstand are con people!”

“…Starting from our regional member [Sir Arnold Amet] right down… Benny Allan [Environment minister], you are a conman… Gabriel Kapris [Commerce & Industry Minister] you are a conman.”

“You talk about managing [environmental] impacts and waste from the PMIZ… you look at Ramu Nickel… You haven’t managed Ramu Nickel! How can you manage the PMIZ?”

Clive Palmer, Papua New Guinea and the Chinese connection

May 18, 2011 4 comments

Questions have been asked in the media [12] about exactly what Australian billionaire Clive Palmer was doing, along with Chinese state owned mining company MCC, owner of the Ramu nickel mine, at the United Resources Party fundraiser in Port Moresby on Saturday night. Australian Senator, Bob Brown, has suggested Palmer should stay out of PNG politics [13].

But it seems Clive Palmer has some very deep connections with China and MCC in particular, as well as other Chinese state-owned enterprises working in PNG. He also has an interest in at least three petroleum exploration licences in PNG. So its is, perhaps, naive to think he will not be doing even more in the future to further help the fundraising efforts of Environment Minister Benny Allen and Petroleum and Energy Minister, William Duma.

“Queensland coal baron Clive Palmer has built his entire fortune [estimated at $3.5 billion] around the Chinese. They are his chief institutional investors, his main customers, his financiers and his mine builders.” [6]

In 2006/7 Palmer sold iron ore deposits to China’s Citic Pacific for US$415 million [1] but this was just the prelude to some much bigger deals.

In June 2010 Palmer announced that, in a partnership with MCC, he had sold, through his privately held company Resourcehouse, an annual 30 million tonnes of coal to China Power in a 20 year deal that could be worth US$60 billion [1]

In the ‘China First Coal project’, coal will be sourced from underground and strip mines in northern Queensland.  US$5.6 billion of the $8 billion development cost is being covered by the Export-Import Bank of China [1] – the same bank that is financing the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone in Madang.

MCC will be supervising the work for the coal project which includes building the mines, port infrastructure and a 500km rail link [1] and also arranged the debt funding and provided equity [8]

MCC bought a 5% stake in Resourcehouse in February 2010 for US$200m [3]

Sino Coal International Engineering, China Communications Construction and state-owned China Railway Group will be subcontractors [1]

Next month Resourcehouse will be floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange in an attempt to raise Au$3.4 billion to part finance the China First coal project. China Railway Group is expected to buy US$200 million worth of shares [3]

China Raliway Construction has four projects in PNG, the latest, announced in June 2011, is to build the Windward Apartments for Steamships [5]

Resourcehouse also has a ‘China First Iron ore project’ in Western Australia with a planned capacity of 12.2 million tonnes annually of magnetite ora and reserves of 1.13 billion tonnes. The project will cost US$2.7 billion [7]

Palmer’s company Mineralogy has an oil and gas exploration interest in PNG through Chinampa Exploration [8]. Chinampa is listed as the owner of three offshore Petroleum Prospecting Licences (PPL254, 255 and 256) in PNG [11] Palmer owns a 50 per cent stake in Chinampa, but there is little publically available information on this business [9]. The private oil and gas exploration company, Finder Exploration, says on its website that it operates 3 exploration permits in PNG on behalf of Chinampa [10].

Palmer himself says he has been to China more than 50 times and has a long-term personal contact with the nation stretching back to 1962 when, as a boy, he met Pu Yi, the last Emporer of China [2]. Palmer has a home in Beijing [4]

Papua New Guinea has no laws governing the funding of political parties and no register of political donations.

References
[1] Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/06/clive-palmer-china-business-energy-coal.html
[2] Brisbane Times: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/palmers-3b-china-odyssey-20100204-necb.html
[3] The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/city-beat/cliver-palmers-resourcehouse-seeks-us36bn-in-ipo/story-fn4xq4v1-1226057206157
[4] News.com: http://www.goldcoast.com.au/article/2008/06/07/12153_more-gossip-news.html
[5] Capital Vue: http://www.capitalvue.com/home/CE-news/inset/@10063/post/1193821
[6] Business Spectator: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/RICH-PICKINGS-Chinas-cash-flow-bonanza-pd20110428-GCBFF?OpenDocument&src=sph&src=rot
[7] The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/betting-on-centrebet-takeover-heats-up/story-e6frg9if-1226054252578
[8] Mineralogy: http://www.mineralogy.com.au/images/presentations/20090702_Presentation.pdf
[9] Business Spectator: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/clive-palmer-resourcehouse-IPO-coal-metallurgical–pd20100212-2L7YR?OpenDocument
[10] Finderexp.com: http://www.finderexp.com/AboutUs/History/tabid/54/language/en-US/Default.aspx
[11] http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20071221/pdf/316n5cfcv0qhpm.pdf
[12] Post Courier, 17 May 2011, The Drum.
[13] http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8250353/greens-query-miners-political-role-in-png

Greens query miners’ political role in PNG

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment
Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says he’s concerned at the growing influence of Australian mining firms in Papua New Guinea.

A year out from PNG national elections, the United Resources Party (URP) reportedly raised $600,000 at a weekend function in Port Moresby attended by a number of international business leaders including one of Australia’s richest men Clive Palmer.

The URP has six members of parliament including Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allen and Tourism Minister Guma Wau.

Mr Palmer, who owns half the PNG-focused oil and gas company Chinampa Exploration, reportedly told the function PNG was entering “a new era”.

“This is the promised land and with a stable government and support from the community, this country can take off,” the Post-Courier newspaper quoted him as saying.

“You have gas, oil and other resources.

“There is a lot of opportunity here and the government must create the right environment.”

Senator Brown, who visited PNG two weeks ago, told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday the growing influence of Australian mining companies was troubling.

“It is very, very troubling … in a marvellous country like PNG where democracy ought to be based on a fair go for everybody,” Senator Brown said.

“I’m very concerned about that and … will be continuing to raise this issue in parliament.”

Mr Palmer has show a keen interest in PNG in recent years, throwing his weight behind a bid to introduce a PNG team in the National Rugby League competition.

He is the single biggest contributor to the Liberal National Party in Queensland and in 2009/10 donated $500,000 to the federal Liberals, according to the electoral commission website.

A spokesman for Mr Palmer told AAP he was unavailable for comment as he was in Hong Kong launching the float of Resourcehouse.

Palmers visit raises eyebrows at the Post Courier

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

WHO is Clive Palmer?

Mineralogy Group of Companies boss Clive Palmer’s presence at the United Resource Party fund raising dinner on Saturday had tongues wagging. What many wanted to know was what this Australian, reported to be the 5th richest from down under, was doing in Port Moresby and at a dinner to raise funds for a political party. Is he going to back the URP in the coming general election? That was the big question that was asked by everyone that night.

The Drum

Controversial Chinese miner and Aus mining magnate funding Env Minister’s re-election bid

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Chinese State owned mining company, MCC, owner of the controversial Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea, and Australian mining magnate, Clive Palmer, who has numerous close links with China, were prominent supporters of a recent fundraising dinner for the United Resources party of PNG’s Environment Minister, Benny Allen.

According to newspaper reports, the dinner raised K1.6 million and was described by URP strongman, Fred Wak as “a big night… a really good start for the URP’ as it builds towards the 2012 national election.

Palmer, a billionaire and one of Australia’s richest men, was easily the most prominent individual at the fundraising dinner. He has built his fortune on the rights to 160 billion tonnes of iron ore deposits in Western Australia.

As well as depending heavily on the Chinese government as his major customer and keeping a home in Beijing. Palmer has been described as “playing a pivatol role in the modernisation of China” and has recently announced several new investments with Chinese companies, including MCC, and funding from the Chinese Exim bank.

Palmer and his entourage arrived in Port Moresby in one of his private jets with Palmer declaring “there is a lot of opportunity here and the Government must create the right environment”.

Presumably the ‘right environment’ has little to do with protecting Papua New Guinea’s rich biodiversity and everything to do with approving mining operations, even where they involve destructive mining practices such as the marine dumping of mine tailings, which Benny Allen has approved for the Ramu nickel mine, leaving local landholders to fight the practice through the courts.

Allen has also approved the environmental permit for the Chinese Exim bank financed Pacific Marine Industrial Zone and will shortly be asked to give the go-ahead for the Yandera mine which will be constructed by another Chinese company, Chinese Nonferrous Metals, which also wants to dump its tailings in the sea.

Last year the PNG government was accused of passing controversial amendments to the Environment Act that protect foreign corporations from environmental damage claims and allow mining activities to be approved without consultation with customary landholders, to protect Chinese mining operations such as Ramu nickel.

Palmer knows a thing or two about political contoversy and corruption, having being close to disgraced Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson, a fund-raiser for his National Party and ‘one of its key powerbrokers”.

The United Resources Party is the second biggest political party in the current National Alliance led coallition government and has six MPs, three of whom are Ministers: William Duma (Minister for Petroleum and Energy), Benny Allen (Environment and Conservation) and Guma Wau (Culture and Tourism).

The fundraising dinner was also supported by Deputy National Alliance leader (Highlands) Don Polye, NA president Simon Kaiwi, former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu, Mining Minister John Pundari, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Ano Pala.

DEC head sets bad example on corruption

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

BY Peter Poke

In 2002 the Ombudsman Commission investigated the Forestry Board for awarding of Kamula Doso Forest Management Area (FMA) to a subsidiary company of Rimbunan Hijau (Wawoi Guavi), in which the Secretary for Department of Environment and Conservation Dr Wari Iamo was heavily implicated.

The Investigation Report specifically recommended Dr Iamo’s removal from the Forestry Board and further recommended that he should not hold any public office because of his inadequate performance in this regard.

Since then all members were removed except one who has been an active member of the Forestry Board which came up with yet another blunder of awarding Ramu Block 1 FMA to another subsidiary company of Rimbunan Hijau (Timbers, PNG), in which the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Madang Timbers, who appealed against the decision (PC: 30/11/09).

Furthermore, the National Court Decision to halt work on Mekeo Hinterland Agro forestry Project, Central province (PC: 03/12/09) as a result of landowners’ complaints raises another question of how the Environment Permit (EP) was issued to the company. The Permit Application was refused by the Environment Council during its final meeting in November 2008, yet the EP was issued on December 17 2008, without the Council members’ knowledge. The Council members only learnt about it through media in early January 2009. The head of DEC is the Chairman of the Environment Council.

How can Papua New Guinea fight corruption when the National Government, particularly the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allen and others responsible to allow senior public servants, who showed no value of their positions and lack of transparency to continue in high offices like this?