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PM O’Neill and his new Ports boss have a sordid past

May 20, 2013 8 comments

Corruption is a word writ large over the relationship between PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his newly appointed Chairman of PNG Ports, Nathaniel Poya ( or Polya).

Poya took up his new role in February this year despite a history of corruption, failed businesses, debts and conflicts of interest.

O’Neill and Poya’s role in the NPF scandal

O’Neill and Poya first came to attention in the investigation into the huge National Provident Fund corruption scandal.

The Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired Justice Tos Barnett,  revealed O’Neill and Poya jointly owned a company named Mecca (No.36) which received large illegal payments from the National Provident Fund.

At that time Poya was both a trustee of NPF and a director and shareholder of Mecca.

The Commission found that on 17 May 1999, K100,000 derived from the NPF Tower fraud was deposited into the account of Mecca (no.36) and “that such money was not earned”.

The Commission of Inquiry recommended both O’Neill and Poya be referred to the Ombudsman Commission for potential breach of the Leadership Code:

(e) MR Poiya and Mr O’Neill benefited from the payment to Mecca;
(f) THE benefit received by trustee Poiya was improper and the commission recommends that he be referred to the Ombudsman to consider whether there had been a breach of the Leadership Code by Mr Poiya; and
(g) The benefit received by Mr O’Neill was improper and at the time he was subject to the Leadership Code, being executive director of Finance Pacific.

In addition the Commission of Inquiry found O’Neill also benefited from and ordered many other corrupt payments involving NPF Tower fraud proceeds. A further K50,000 from the NPF fraud was paid to O’Neill’s former wife, Cheryl Caley

The Commission also stated:

Mr O’Neill’s explanations were unacceptable, internally inconsistent and contrary to clearly documented factual evidence

Poya not a fit and proper person to head PNG Ports

Nathaniel Poya is also not a fit and proper person to head any public corporation or government department because of some of his other business dealings.

Poya was a shareholder and director in Voco Point Trading Ltd when it went into liquidation in 2004 owing K3.9 million to 89 creditors including Bank of South Pacific.

In a subsequent legal case, National Court judge Justice Gabi was highly critical of the company’s failure to pay taxes or file tax returns for a number of years, conduct the judge described as “contrary to corporate morality or public interest”. [OS 291 of 2007, Poya -v- Paki at para 15]

Conflicts of Interest

O’Neill is also wrong to appoint Poya to Chair PNG Ports, as Poya is alleged to have a clear conflict of interest.

Mr Poya it is claimed has his own stevedoring business, PNG National Stevedoring. In this role Poya previously took the Minister for Transport to court for not awarding his company lucrative ports contracts; a court case that Poya subsequently lost.

O’Neill himself is also in a conflict of interest situation in this matter as Mr Poya, according to MP Sam Basil, is also a relative of the Prime Minister. [Post Courier 10 May 2013]

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