Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Stephens’

Paki’s departure from PNGDP/OTML is a good thing Mekere!

October 4, 2013 2 comments

Is the government’s grab for PNGSDP/OTML a good thing? Its hard to say. What about the departure of Rex Paki from its Board of Directors? To this we can issue a much more definitive yes. While Sir Mekere Morauta may have slammed his replacement by Isaac Lupari, Papua New Guineans should breathe a sigh of relief.

In October 2012 PNGexposed raised serious concerns about Paki’s position on the board following the release of a report on the Paga Hill demolition by the International State Crime Initiative. For our efforts, we were slammed by Transparency International PNG Chairman, Lawrence Stephens, who is also a senior manager at PNGSDP.

He claimed:

“Come on oh nameless ones! Take some deep breaths and ask yourselves if you are really prepared to publicly defend the rights of Papua New Guineans and if it is really necessary for you to throw stones from the shelter of annoninimity. Much as you might like to claim the oppositie there is nothing astonishing in any loyal Papua New Guinean seeing the difference between accusations and convictions. Shame on you, whoever you are”.

The irony is we have men like Stephens and Morautu being held up in the international media as anti-corruption warriors, but what did they do about Rex Paki for all these years?

For those unfamiliar with Paki’s past, here is our original post from 2012:

Over the past 20 years Paki has appeared before two Commission of Inquiries (Finance Department and National Provident Fund), two Public Account Committee Inquiries, and a Supreme Court case where he was slammed by the full court.

Paki was intimately involved in the Paga Hill development in Port Moresby between 1997-2000, a development which has recently been making headlines for forced evictions and corrupt property deals – link.

In January 2004 the Public Accounts Committee reprimanded Paki’s company Ram Business Consultants (RAM) for issuing an “empty cheque” to the Accountants Registration Board, and then “practicing without … formal registration”.

Two years later in a separate investigation – which Paki attempted to block – the PAC found that over an 18 month period (1998-2000) the Public Curator’s Office had paid RAM K1,561,062 (approx US$640,000), without the existence of a contract, proper invoices, or evidence that any work had been done.

Two Commission of Inquiries (COI) also found reason to censure RAM. Following its first appearance, RAM was accused by the COI of receiving “improper benefits” and charging clients “excessive” fees; in the firm’s second appearance, the COI found that RAM had substantially inflated a cash-flow projection, so a prominent client could amplify his damages claim against the state.

In light of these PAC/COI findings, it is perhaps not surprising that most recently in an appearance before the Supreme Court, Salika DCJ, Gabi J and Hartshorn J, described Rex Paki as “evasive and dishonest”, following Paki’s extraordinary efforts to frustrate the process of discovery (Paki was being sued for allegedly overpaying himself as liquidator of Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd).

Those interested can access the original story in full here:

A second article by Dr Kristian Lasslett:

The debate with Transparency International PNG can be viewed here:

Mr Stephens should beware of glass houses…

November 2, 2012 4 comments

In response to recent posts on Rex Paki, Lawrence Stephens has suggested:

“There are excellent reasons for us to scrutinize appointees to many positions. There are excellent reasons also to show respect for those with whose activities we may be concerned [with] but against whom no court of law has recorded criminal convictions”.

Well then, lets look at the comments Mr Stephens made when PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister, Belden Namah was accused, not by a Commission of Inquiry, not by a Public Accounts Committee, not by an Auditor General, and not by a Court, but a newspaper of depositing $800,000 in a casino account at the Australian Star City Casino.

Mr Stephens, as Chairman of TIPNG, told the Sydney Morning Herald:

“It looks bad. Splashing large sums of cash around at a casino is extremely frightening, especially when we are constantly told there is not enough money for schools, hospitals and roads”.

There you go, Namah was guilty, on the basis of a report in an Australian newspaper. Was this the sort of “respect for those with whose activities we may be concerned [with] but against whom no court of law has recorded criminal convictions”, Stephens means?

So in the case of Namah, Mr Stephens was more than prepared to publicly indict PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister, on the word of an Australian newspaper. But PNGexposed is wrong to post articles criticizing Paki on the basis of two Commission of Inquiries, two Public Accounts Committee inquiries, an Auditor General inquiry, and two court judgments.

Why the double standards Mr Stephens?

Could it be that this example is a little closer to home? Could it be that the case of Rex Paki shows a staggering failure of due diligence, or worse, on the part of the PNGSDP Board and Management. It is time for TIPNG to take a principled stance against corruption, not a politically expedient one.

TIPNG Chairman attacks PNGexposed

November 1, 2012 8 comments

Recently PNGexposed has posted a series of articles that scrutinize the past of Rex Paki. Paki currently sits on the Board of the PNG Sustainable Development Programmed and the Bank of PNG, in addition to being the Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority.

These articles pointed out that Paki was slammed in two Commission of Inquiry reports, two Public Accounts Committee reports and an Auditor General report.

In response to these articles, the Chairman of Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stephens, who is also a Program Manager at PNGSDP, defended Paki, claiming these reports amounted to mere “unproven accusations”.

PNGexposed took issue with this slight against PNG’s public accounting agencies and judicial organs, and our view was made known yesterday – TI dismisses Commission of Inquiry findings.

In response, Mr Stephens continued his defense of Rex Paki: “So where do we put a headline which points out that PNG Exposed is involved in astonishing displays of arrogant ignorance with its nameless correspondents insulting all Papua New Guineans through blatant disregard for the right of individuals named by commissions of inquiry to have their days in court”.

As TIPNG’s Chairman, surely Mr Stephens must recognize that dozens of carefully researched, well documented reports, where individuals were given a fair hearing, have been tabled in PNG, by judicial inquiries and other public accounting bodies, without any attempt to prosecute the named individuals. Surely, it is not TIPNG’s position that the failure to prosecute is tantamount to exoneration. It is not.

The RPNGC and Task-Force Sweep only have the resources to prosecute a small proportion of offenders. Moreover, often they themselves are subject to political pressure and internal corruption, which makes mounting prosecutions difficult. And when cases do make it to court, they have a notable tendency to be dismissed without reason. As the head of Taskforce Sweep, Sam Koim, has observed:  “Our files have been properly scrutinised before they were served, only to be struck out by the District Courts left-right-centre…The magistrates rarely publish their reasons for their decisions and so in most cases, there is room to conclude that justice was done without reason”.

There are many examples to support Koim’s allegation.

But lets look at some occasions, when Mr Rex Paki, was given his day in court – admittedly, these are not criminal charges, but nonetheless they involve serious accusations of impropriety and incompetence, which were scrutinised by senior PNG judges.

Example 1: Poya v Paki [2008] PGNC

A Director/Shareholder in the company Voco Point Trading Ltd, asked the court to remove Rex Paki as liquidator. The National Court found as follows:

“Rex Paki was appointed and consented to be a liquidator on 5th March 2004. Since his appointment, the liquidator has so far provided 4 reports to the creditors; 2 in March and May of 2005 and the other 2 in June and October 2008 following a direction by the Court.  The reports are unsatisfactory, for instance, the preferential debt due to the Internal Revenue Commission, which would rank before all the unsecured creditors, is not known. It is also not known why 6 monthly reports as envisaged by section 305 (2) of the Companies Act were not prepared and sent to creditors or shareholders of the company. Second, there is evidence of conversion and the explanation by Rex Paki is unsatisfactory. Two motor vehicles registration numbers LAD 538 and HAH 381 have been transferred to and registered in the name of Rex Paki without the authority or knowledge of Nathaniel Poya. Third, the evidence discloses that the liquidator has not reported the fire on the Voco Point property to the Police or the Insurance Assessors. Fourth, there is no evidence before the Court that every known creditor was notified of the meeting or a public notice to all creditors was given according to section 293 (2) & (3) of the Companies Act. There is a copy of a notice of meeting dated 13th June 2008 before the Court, but how the creditors were notified is not known to me. The evidence is that only 25 out of 89 creditors attended the meeting. The purpose of the meeting, which was to determine whether a new liquidator should be appointed, was not stated in the notice. Finally, a liquidator is required to have regard to views of the shareholders by whom a special resolution was passed for purposes of voluntary liquidation (see section 308 of the Companies Act). It was resolved at the shareholders meeting on 5th March 2004 that the liquidator is to give a report to the shareholders on any sale of assets. There is no evidence that the liquidator has given the shareholders interim reports of the sale of assets. I am satisfied and agree with Nathaniel Poya that Rex Paki be terminated as the liquidator forthwith

Example 2: Paki v Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd [2010] PGSC

Here the Supreme Court examined attempts by Rex Paki to avoid the process of discovery, after it was allaged he had overcharged a client. The court concludes:

It is clear to us that the appellant [Paki] was attempting to avoid giving discovery; the refusal was repeated, chronic and designed to conceal the true state of affairs. He was evasive and dishonest. He gave different reasons for not producing the invoices. He said copies of the invoices were available for inspection at Namaliu & David Lawyers, that the originals were in archives at Korobosea, that the copies on his computer have been lost because the computer crashed, that copies have been misplaced and he needed time to locate them, that copies were available at MVIL or at the offices of Mr. Kerenga Kua, a lawyer. He did not give discovery despite agreeing to Consent Orders of the National Court requiring him to produce the invoices for the entire period of the liquidation. Two (2) years after he verified a list of documents, the appellant was still looking for copies of the invoices. In fact, he never gave discovery. He was required by law to retain the accounts and records of the liquidation for seven (7) years (section 306 (1)(b) of the Companies Act). We agree with Mr. Brookes that the actions of the appellant have caused the respondent an enormous amount of wasted time, effort and money. We are of the view that the conduct of the appellant was improper, unreasonable and blameworthy.

So Mr Stephens, we are not talking about one Commission of Inquiry report, or one unfavorable court decisions. We are talking about two Commission of Inquiry reports, two Public Accounts Committee inquiries, an Auditor General report, a Supreme Court decision and a National Court decision. That is, seven separate occasions when Rex Paki was alleged to have engaged in misconduct. On all occasions there was convincing evidence to draw this conclusion, they were not mere unfounded accusations.

Surely this is enough proof to raises concerns when Rex Paki is appointed to the Board of a billion kina not-for-profit organization charged with the important duty of promoting the sustainable development and welfare of people in PNG?

You are wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

November 1, 2012 5 comments

Lawrence Stephens | Transparency International

You are wrong! Wrong! Wrong! How dare you suggest TI PNG or I have dismissed the findings of any CoI – see TI dismisses Commission of Inquiry findings. It sounds good as a headline but you know it is far from the truth.

So where do we put a headline which points out that PNG Exposed is involved in astonishing displays of arogant ignorance with its nameless correspondents insulting all Papua New Guineans through blatant disregard for the right of individuals named by commissions of inquirey to have their days in court?

Come on oh nameless ones! Take some deep breaths and ask yourselves if you are really prepared to publicly defend the rights of Papua New Guineans and if it is really necessary for you to throw stones from the shelter of annoninimity. Much as you might like to claim the oppositie there is nothing astonishing in any loyal Papua New Guinean seeing the difference between accusations and convictions. Shame on you, whoever you are.

Let’s go through this once more. Cmmissions of Inquirey look into the issues which give rise to their being convened. They are not courts. Their findings generally raise quetsions as to the behaviour of individuals and groups of individuals whose activities have caused concen. Often there are recommendations made to government and law enforcement agencies that these people be subjected to invesigation and possible prosecution. Until this happens all we have are indications that the CoI saw evidence of possible wrong doing.

Oh nameless one(s) whoever you are. Your efforts to expose wrong and help us do better are greatly appreciated. We thank you for thiese.

There are excellent reasons for us to scrutinise appointees to many positions. There are excellent reasons also to show respect for those with whose activities we may be concerned but against whom no court of law has recorded criminal convictions,
Please do not insult members of TI PNG by suggesting the findings of CoI have been dismissed by them. TI PNG has constantly reminded governemnts and law enforement agencies that these issues have not been addressed. And we will continue to do so.

And please understand that TI PNG exisits to work with government to bring about lasting change in governance, Dpn’t be afraid. Come out in public and join us in our effoorts to encourage PNG to do as well as its people have a right to expect.

TI dismisses Commission of Inquiry findings

October 31, 2012 9 comments

In an astonishing statement, Transparency International Chairman Lawrence Stephens has dismissed the findings of two Commissions of Inquiry as ‘unproven accusations’ and says they ‘are not sufficient for responsible people to treat as facts’.

Stephens remarkable comments, which he published on this blog and which are reprinted below, were made in response to questions raised over the role of Rex Paki on the Boards of the Civil Aviation Authority, Bank of PNG and PNG Sustainable Development Program.

Paki has been implicated in the findings of both the Finance Department and National provident Fund Commissions of Inquiry as well as two Public Account Committee investigations and has been labelled by the Supreme Court as “evasive and dishonest”.

But this it seems is all worthless gossip to the Transparency International chief despite the fact the Commissions of Inquiry are conducted by qualified judges, are established under Statute and make findings of fact based on a “strict adherence to principles of natural justice” and “giving all person with an interest in matters before the Commission an opportunity to be heard”.

Stephens is right to say that Rex Paki has never been found guilty on any criminal charges, but to say the findings of a Commission of Inquiry merely raise ‘questions that are of concern’ and that often the ‘accusations prove baseless‘ is very misleading and insulting to the Commissioners.

Stephens is an employee of the PNG Sustainable Development Program.

Statement by Lawrence Stephens

This discussion in relation to Rex Paki draws on some useful sources. It raises questions which are of concern to many people. Questions however are not sufficient for responsible people to treat as facts. People accused are surely entitled to be heard out before being convicted, particularly if the convicting is being done by people who do not even give their real names!
TI PNG views with concern the official and unofficial records of many people holding public office and the disappointing regularity of appointments of reputedly inappropriate individuals to important positions. We are also conscious of the times where accusations prove baseless. Our approach is generally to encourage transparent scrutiny of all public appointments.
We are a partner to government in seeking to improve the manner in which governance is practiced. We do not normally focus on unproven accusations against individuals. We do focus attention on idications that, as a result of corruption, systems are failing or not operating as they should. Often our work is conducted quietly, working with like-minded public office holders and other community organisations, to assist bring about change. Occasionally public comment appears necessary and we are not constrained by relationships with governments, companies and individuals in so responding.
Individual TI PNG directors over the years have had interests in organisations and activities which have been subject to public debate and challenges. This does present the organisation with challenges which need to be worked through. In my experience we have, as a group of concerned individuals encouraging better ethical standards in government and business, faced these challenges without being constrained by our wide network of personal associates across the community.
Lawrence Stephens