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.
“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:
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]