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Why an ICAC is needed, not another fruitless inquiry

March 10, 2017 1 comment

Source: ACT NOW! 

The Prime Minister’s announcement of an Administrative Inquiry into the Manumanu land deals and naval base relocation is just another exercise in covering up corruption and avoiding justice.

We have seen numerous lengthy and expensive Commission’s of Inquiry over the years but no action to address the corrupt behavior they uncover. It will be the same with the latest inquiry, whether it is termed as a Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Inquiry.

This is because such inquiries lack a crucial power – the power to take action against those revealed to be involved in corruption; instead all they can do is make recommendations, recommendations that, history tells us, usually get ignored.

Such inquiries are also flawed because their initial timeframes and budgets are often insufficient when they uncover so much wrongdoing. This leads to delays and sometimes the inquiries end up taking several years. They can also lack political independence, being appointed directly by the Prime Minister, and their reports can be hard to access.

This is why Papua New Guinea desperately needs a well-funded Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with the power to immediately investigate and prosecute allegations of corrupt behaviour.

The Government of Peter O’Neil was elected in 2012 on a promise to combat corruption at all levels through the establishment of an ICAC. It has failed to deliver on that promise, and instead it continues to waste public funds on administrative inquiries whose recommendations are usually never implemented, and sometimes, not even published.

In 2013, the Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural Business Lease recommended forty unlawful leases be revoked, but those recommendations continue to be ignored. Crucially the Commission also failed to report on one-third of the leases investigated and failed to identify with clarity the government officers responsible for the unlawful land grab or recommend action against them.

In 2014, there was the Commission of Inquiry into Law Firm Brief Outs, that report has never been published.

Prior to that, a Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance found K 780 million in public funds had been stolen and recommended the prosecution of a list of 35 persons.  Almost none of those persons have been arrested or charged.

And whatever happened to the Commission of Inquiry into the Investment Corporation, Defence Force Retirement Fund and National Provident Fund? Where are those reports now and why has so little action been taken?

Corruption in this country is prevalent in all sectors of society and its impacts are far-reaching! Corrupt activities are not just carried out by public office holders. It is really a collaborative effort of individuals from elected officials, appointed public and constitutional office holders, clergymen, civil servants, foreign and local companies, business associates and even family members of these individuals!

It is for this reason a well-resourced, self-funded, Independent Commission Against Corruption with wide powers is needed to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals – not another pointless inquiry.

Will Prime Minister O’Neill crumble before NEC opponents over Manumanu COI?

March 1, 2017 5 comments

pok-and-duma

When evidence was made public on 1 February this year, linking the State Enterprises Minister, Defence Minister and Chair of the Central Supply and Tender Board, to a major land swindle, Prime Minister O’Neill swiftly announced a Commission of Inquiry.  

He appeared to have his ducks lined up. The ABC reported just five days later that a retired judge was to be appointed head of the COI. 

Two names were thrown around in the social media, Warwick Andrews and Graham Ellis.

Odds are it was the latter who had been approached by O’Neill. 

After all, Ellis had previously been asked by the NEC to Chair the Interim Anti-Corruption Office. However, this appointment has been blocked by a court injunction, which wont be heard until April. 

This has left Ellis in limbo. Cue the role as head of the Commission of Inquiry.

However, evidence coming from within the NEC indicates that Minister for Public Services, Puka Temu, among others, have deep reservations over O’Neill’s choice.

If the appointment is Ellis, this makes sense.

When he was a National Court Judge from 1990-1992, and 2009-2011, he had a reputation for effectively clearing out case backlogs and swiftly getting the wheels of justice into gear. The Poreporena Freeway Commission of Inquiry he chaired in 1992 was completed within 8 weeks and under budget. He also Chaired a 1991 Leadership Tribunal that led to the famous resignation of Ted Diro.

For a Minister such as Puka Temu, whose own connections with William Duma’s sticky fingers, has been documented by the National Court – the news that a no-nonsense judge, with a reputation of being fiercely independent, may not have come as welcomed news. 

It is not clear how the struggle within NEC will turn out. But it stands to reason if the retired Judge already appointed to head the country’s premiere anti-corruption office is selected, it is a sign that substance has trumped expediency. On the other hand, if we see hands ruffle down to the bottom of the barrel, we can safely assume a certain Prime Minister is being held over it – and is prepared to set up a COI, that will be little more than a whitewash.

Has PM O’Neill appointed a fraudster to investigate the alleged Duma Fraud?

February 4, 2017 8 comments
lupari

Chief Sec Issac Lupari was condemned by the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance for being the mastermind of a multimillion dollar fraud

This week we were reminded why PNG needs an impartial, independent and well-resourced corruption fighting force – as Minister William Duma attempted to deflect attention from evidence pointing to his involvement in two major land grabs, worth tens, if not, hundreds of millions.

Prime Minister O’Neill assures us, the matter will be thoroughly investigated by Police Commissioner, Gary Baki – a close ally of the PM – and wait for it, his Chief Secretary Issac Lupari.

We can reveal that the Chief Secretary Issac Lupari was condemned by the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance for being the mastermind of a multimillion dollar fraud.

The Commission of Inquiry observed:

‘Mr. Issaac Lupari sued the State for breach of four separate contracts that were entered into as Secretary for the Departments of Finance, Defence, DPM and Transport in that order. He claimed that he had been unlawfully terminated from all those positions after serving short stints in each and claimed the balance of all pay and entitlements for the unexpired period of all four contracts’.

The Commission observes:

‘It will be clear from the evidence gathered so far that Mr. Lupari never suffered any loss of pay and entitlements, and was adequately remunerated by the State for the whole time that he claimed for and beyond’.

In summary the Commission of Inquiry found:

  • In 1997 Lupari was appointed Finance Secretary by Prime Minister Bill Skate, the mentor to our current PM, Mr O’Neill.
  • On 15 January 1998 he was sacked by the Skate government, but as fortune has it, the very same day he got the job of Defense Secretary.
  • On 17 March 2000 he was made Secretary for the Department of Personnel Management by the Morauta government, with a contracted end date of 29th of June 2000.
  • On the day his contract ended, Lupari was made Transport Secretary.
  • Nevertheless, Lupari claimed he was unlawfully dismissed as Secretary for the Department of Personnel Management.
  • His legal team was … Paul Paraka lawyers.
  • The Attorney General and Solicitor General settled the claim for a cool K1 million, which was paid by the Department of Finance on the 17 September 2004 by cheque No. 790468.
  • A further K2.7 million in settlements were agreed with Lupari, after he claimed he was also dismissed as Transport, Finance and Defense Secretary– the Commission was unable to find evidence of whether this money was paid.

The Commission concluded:

‘Mr. Isaac Lupari knew full well that his claims amounted to triple and quadruple dipping. Yet he went ahead and instructed his lawyers to file claims against the State in the National Court’.

‘Mr. Lupari was not entitled to the K3,703,461.31, either legally or morally. Paul Paraka lawyers engaged in deceptive conduct when filing Writs in the order they did’.

‘Paul Paraka Lawyers did not submit quantum submissions. Purported quantum submissions later produced to the Commission were fabricated after the Col summoned same from Mr. Guguna Garo of Paul Paraka Lawyers’.

‘Paul Paraka lawyers were paid K200,000.00 for each matter totaling K800,000 for doing a minimal amount of work. That work consisted only of drafting the four Writs of Summons. There were no appearances in Court and no protracted negotiations before agreement was reached to settle the four matters out of Court’.

Read the Commission report on Issac Lupari  (220KB)

So this is the honourable fellow who will now investigate the Duma allegations. The people of PNG will be forgiven for not holding much confidence in the process.

Which serves as a timely reminder, what happened to the Interim Office for Anti-Corruption which was to be headed by Judge Graham Ellis?

O’Neill disposed of Taskforce Sweep, and then aborted its replacement, seemingly in the dead of night when no one was looking.

If Lupari is now the moral barometer of anti-corruption investigations in PNG, god save us all.

Its time for O’Neill to implement the ICAC he promised, so an independent judicial authority, can scrutinize corruption.

The People of PNG must Rise up to face the Evil of Corruption

August 7, 2013 Leave a comment

By LUCAS KIAP on PNG BLOGS

Wake up Papua New Guineans; we are not living in an imagination paradise world any more. Corruption in this country is real, is serious and is eating deeply into development funds meant for providing the basic government services which the people are praying for every day.

There is no one else to blame for than the politicians we elect to serve us with honor, pride and dignity; bureaucrats that we entrust to managing government departments and institutions; public servants that are responsible for implementing government policies; and cohorts who often network with the key people in government positions – they all everyday work around the clock tirelessly – devising plans, mechanisms, policies, and platforms which can be effectively used to divert funds away from the real intentions and eventually ended up into their own pockets.

There is no joke about this. This is serious. Papua New Guineans, the better country that you want to live in will not be built by anyone else than the one that you built it by yourself.

Corruption is trapping millions in poverty. Corruption is allowing people from other countries to take up business and employment opportunities which supposed to be preserved for locals. Corruption is causing increase in law and order problems because funds which meant for this are diverted elsewhere. Corruption is responsible for substandard and poor quality infrastructures in the country, which often comes apart into a few years of operation.

Papua New Guineans, as long as the future of this country and the future of our children are concerned, we have a real problem threatening to deprive us of all the opportunities to a better life in this country, which has so much potential to develop and advance quickly.

However, if what the current government is doing to address corruption in this country is something that we all can embrace, then the government has more to do than just setting up the Investigative Task Force Sweep (ITFS) as the culprits who stole K1.4 billion are still at large.

The K1.4 billion, the figure which is estimated to be stolen as published in the mainstream media by the Chairman of the Investigative Task Force Sweep, Mr. Sam Koim is a very significant amount of money that can replace Australian Aid and subsequently all the goodies that our elected leaders preach about the recent Asylum Seekers deal, signed between the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The K1.4 billion is less than what is stolen from the people’s purse. This figure could be multiplied if all government departments are to be investigated including all state entities. The figure could also be multiplied further if all elected MPs are to be investigated of how they have used their district development grants over the years.

A true government that really cares for the people and love them will not shy away from investigating those public funds and prosecute all those responsible for stealing billions every year.  This raises a lot of questions about this government’s ability and willingness to address corruption by setting up the Investigative Task Force Sweep (ITFS) and also the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

If the intentions of this government to address corruption are real and without fear or favor then we are definitely waiting to see some of the prominent people and high profile politicians in the country to serve their time behind bars.

But if that is not fort coming then we the people of PNG have a lot to do to defend this country and our future from the imminent threat of corruption – threatening to erase our beautiful country off the world map.

Fighting corruption in PNG

July 15, 2013 1 comment

Sam Koim on the front line

By Grant Walton*. Islands Business

For those on the front line, fighting corruption in Papua New Guinea can be a dangerous occupation. It wasn’t that long ago that a former Ombudsman Commissioner was shot. Sam Koim, chairman of PNG’s anti-corruption coordinating body, Taskforce Sweep, knows all about the dangers that come with the job

In February this year, his office was ransacked. In a video footage of the aftermath, Koim looks down the camera lens in defiance; he asserts that the incident will not deter him or his team. The office of Taskforce Sweep was targeted because of its success. It has registered over 200 cases of corruption, and recovered over 68 million Kina (around A$32 million). This has meant Koim has become somewhat of a celebrity, sought by the media, researchers and policy makers. Despite his busy schedule, I managed to catch up with him while he was in Geelong for a symposium on PNG at Deakin University.

This blog post, based on our conversation, reports on Koim’s perceptions about corruption, the taskforce, new anti-corruption organisations, the challenges facing anti-corruption organisations, solutions and the road ahead.

Taskforce Sweep is a multi-agency taskforce that was established by the national government of PNG in August 2011. Initially set up to investigate allegations aimed at the Department of National Planning, the taskforce’s mandate was subsequently extended to cover other government departments. Koim told me the government recently agreed to support Taskforce Sweep until arrangements for a new anti-corruption institution are decided.

As outlined in PNG’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010-2030, this new institution is likely to be an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Establishing an ICAC in PNG is not a new idea. In the late 1990s, a proposed Organic Law on the Independent Commission Against Corruption failed to win parliamentary support.

There is still concern about creating an ICAC in PNG: some fear it would suck resources from established anti-corruption organisations, such as the highly regarded but poorly resourced Ombudsman Commission. Koim was aware of these concerns, and acknowledged that any new anti-corruption institution could potentially ‘divert government attention away from existing agencies, or cause territorial conflicts [between agencies]’.

However, he was adamant that an ICAC could be effective if it was ‘appropriate for PNG’. This meant that any new institution should integrate into existing government systems and reflect local values. Koim warned against importing an ICAC model—such as those from New South Wales or Hong Kong—without considering the local context. To account for local complexities, he said that moves to install a new anti-corruption organisation must slowly evolve.

Asked to reflect on the initial achievements of Taskforce Sweep, he was modest, saying that he would leave it up to others to judge. But he was satisfied with the ‘amount of deterrents that are being created’. He noted that, ‘in the past, people would do anything and steal [with impunity]; but now they know that somebody’s looking over their shoulders’.

While Taskforce Sweep has recovered stolen money and has helped with the arrest of suspects, its conviction record is yet to be established. On this front, Koim hopes that he and others can learn from Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). Until recently the KPK had an impressive 100% conviction rate for corruption cases.

Australian media has quoted Koim as saying that half of PNG’s 7.6 billion kina development budget was lost to corruption between 2009 and 2011.

Even with the difficulties of measuring corruption (corruption is conducted in secret, making the extent of the problem difficult to gauge), this estimate is astounding. Why has corruption become a problem in PNG? In response, Koim linked corruption to inequality. Seeing, reading and hearing about money in the midst of poverty brings about ‘frustration’, that means many Papua New Guineans don’t feel compelled to play by the rules, he said.

He added that, as an ‘inclusive society’, many people benefit from corruption, which means they are less inclined to speak out against it. He was particularly concerned about the pressure on government workers to provide for their wantoks—literally ‘one talk’, a system of obligation between kin—means many public servants look for ways to augment their salary.

The Australian press also heavily publicised Koim’s concerns that Australia had become the preferred destination for money gained corruptly—in October 2012, he called Australia the Cayman Islands of PNG. Koim didn’t back away from these comments. But he did say he’s been happy with the way Australian officials have worked with him and his team since his speech.

While wary about revealing details, he suggested that Australia is now doing a better job of identifying suspicious transactions from PNG and monitoring those accused of corruption. This is perhaps evidenced by the recent seizure of businessman Eremas Wartoto’s Queensland property by Australian authorities, and the cancelling of his 457 visa. Wartoto is accused of misappropriating more than A$30 million from the PNG government.

No discussion about corruption in the country would be complete without exploring PNG’s multi-billion kina question: what is to be done?

Koim believes that corruption can be curtailed in PNG through three interlinked strategies. First, there needs to be greater focus on training honest public servants about the principles of good governance. Second, he wants to see government departments better coordinate their anti-corruption responses. And finally, he would like to see legislative reform. As outlined in his speech during Deakin’s symposium on PNG, he believes that laws need to be revised to better reflect PNG’s diverse cultures.

He would also like to see a stricter enforcement of the country’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2005—an act that was considered ineffective by 2011 report by the World Bank and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. But all this, he suggests, will require political will, resources and incentives. In PNG, government departments and politicians need to actively support anti-corruption reform . He called for Australia to provide more money for anti-corruption initiatives. He also suggested that Australia conditions its aid by allocating money to PNG based on the PNG government’s willingness to tackle corruption.

There’s not doubt that Koim and his team have achieved much despite the dangers associated with anti-corruption work in the country. Onlookers wait to see if these efforts translate into convictions and what role Australia and other donors will play in supporting anti-corruption efforts in the future.

As he suggests, if PNG does decide to establish an ICAC, it is critical that support for this new institution, through donors and the government, does not undermine existing anti-corruption efforts. It is also important that this organisation be free from political interference and be able to reel in the big fish—those at the top of the corruption food chain—no matter who they are.

In the meantime, Koim and his team continue their fight against corruption. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

*Research Fellow at the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre.

The baobab tree infested with Corruption

June 28, 2013 2 comments

pkay

The whole Independent State of New Guinea Papua, the country, the nation, is a baobab tree infested with Corruption (with a capital “C”). And like a baobab tree the National Government with the national leaders are the base and thick trunk and the Provincial Governments led by Governors and provincial leaders are the rotting angular branches that are infected because the trunk is infected..

WHAT to do? Well, corruption of the kind we see in PNG has developed a life – a growing industry – of its own. So much so that the practices we see are so blatantly blurred that it is probably no longer possible to determine what is right from wrong; or good from bad; or what we knew as grand corruption from a daily, seemingly acceptable transaction.

It is awfully difficult to weed out corruption if the leaders, authorities and the institutions that are supposed to guard against it are in fact the worst perpetrators and promoters. Their lack of will and decisive actions and evasive explanations almost give legitimacy at every level of government and in all aspects of governance.

Don’t let’s allow politicians to fool us by well sounding statements that they are trying to do something to stem corruption. NOT only is corruption here to stay but it has found fertile ground in willing participants and can only grow. It will keep growing because the powers that be and all the mongrels that facilitate and enhance it and who benefit from it know that it pays to be corrupt in PNG.

It seems it pays to be corrupt until the People, the masses, get sick and tired of it. That is what the Arab Spring was all about. May a Melanesian Dawn is in the offing somewhere down the bush track.

ICAC is a red herring.

The Ombudsman Commission can’t possibly see or notice what is going on at ground level because they are perched in the Ivory Tower in the middle of Port Moresby CBD.

Auditor-General is a “dohore” body of 8am to 4.06pm PNGns and Asians that awaken their survival instincts only after the horses have bolted out of the corrals and their reports are essentially compliant reports that only hurt any offenders over the knuckles.

It makes you feel like crying when you see women, mothers in the market stalls from Boram to Buin and Buka; from Malaoro at Gordons to the Goroka Market; from Tari to Telefomin or from the street vendors trying to pawn Chinese made items to the ladies with dishes of scorns, omelettes on their heads at refueling service stations trying to make a quid.

Corruption is a disease. If it is not cured it will eat PNG’s heart and soul away. It’s a disease far worse than HIV-AIDS because it affects even those that do not participate or come into contact with the one’s involved in it. It also leaves the country in a very sad predicament because at least with

Corruption we can take legislative, criminal and policy actions and do something about it. With HIV-AIDS there is no known cure really.

Corruption is right up there with three most “profitable” and noticeable growing industries in this country:

  1. Security Services
  2. Corruption
  3. 
Prostitution

Draft ICAC laws available on ACT NOW! website

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

PM’s Dept release draft ICAC laws for public consultation

The Anti-Corruption Sectretariat in the Prime Minister’s Department has released for public consultation a number of documents on the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The documents (which can be downloaded from the ACT NOW! website) are:

  1. The draft Organic Law on ICAC
  2. Draft amendments to the Constitution
  3. Public discussion paper
  4. Background paper on International Best Practice

Members of the public and civil society organisations have until June 30 to make their submissions on the documents to the PM’s Department.