Justice delayed is justice denied
|Sir Julius Chan|
By HENZY YAKHAM
The Government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has adopted a hardline approach against corruption and crime in general since assuming office after the 2012 general elections.
With the zero tolerance on crime in any form or shape, Mr O’Neill has also has also announced 2013 as the year of implementation.
The tough government stance to rid crime and subsequent legislation of tougher penalties by parliament has received overwhelming public support.
While the Government is taking most appropriate action to address crime, there exits complacency in certain State law enforcement agencies.
A classical case is the apparent inaction or lack of it involving misuse of millions of kina in the New Ireland province between 2002- 2007.
The Ombudsman Commission, Police Fraud Squad, Public Employees Association and other State agencies have conducted their own investigations.
During 2010, the long arm of the law was catching up with certain individuals who are alleged to have unjustly enriched themselves under an illegal political pyramid structure that existed between 2002 and 2007 within the New Ireland Provincial Government.
Long awaited, but a much-welcomed move fully supported by majority law abiding New Ireland people and their leaders, police fraud squad officers started charging individuals with offences ranging from stealing under false pretence, misappropriation and fraud.
During 2010, police charged eight individuals with one of them facing two charges.
The arrests were first of more expected, and was a follow-up action on the recommendations of an audit investigations carried out by RAM Business Consultants into the financial dealings of the New Ireland Provincial Government between 2002-2007.
That investigation revealed instances of systemic and blatant abuse of financial and administrative process, gross misuse and misappropriation of public funds totalling more than K64 million during the five years.
The investigation report confirmed the existence of an illegal financial and administrative system, known as the “Lemus Structure”.
The report said Lemus structure was a political network and did not come within the formal government framework, thus its involvement in conducting government business was illegal.
“There existed a chaotic and unstructured administrative system famously called the Lemus structure which not only conflicted with established systems and structure of Government, but also promoted and environment of cronyism and lack of accountability and transparent,” the report highlighted.
“It appears the established systems of governance were deliberately manipulated to suit vested political interest. The Provincial Government completely disregarded the public service machinery of New Ireland Province in policy formulation, strategic planning and budgeting as well as programme implementation,” it added.
The report highlighted that public service delivery system was highly politicised and made totally inefficient and ineffective.
The province’s annually provincial budgets were prepared outside of the Provincial Government machinery with no inputs from professional, experienced and career public servants.
It also established that there were enough evidences for both former and serving politicians and public servants to be charged with criminal offences as well as leadership and public service disciplinary charges.
On September 9 2009, the investigation report was tabled in the New Ireland Provincial Assembly by Governor Sir Julius Chan.
Sir Julius called for a comprehensive probe by the Ombudsman Commission (OC) into the leadership culture under the previous regime.
The report made strong recommendations for appropriate criminal, civil and leadership action against the former Governor and former Provincial Administrator.
Powers and functions of the public servants were performed at the Governor’s office. As a result, most public servants remain idle for the whole five years, but were still on full pay.
The report referred to a Provincial Executive Council (PEC) decision No: 11/2002 which directed the then PA to withdraw all lawfully delegated financial powers from all public servants except the First Secretary to the Governor’s office.
Since the date of that PEC decision all requisitions for expenditure for Public Investment Programme (PIP) were initiated at the Governor’s office.
The First Secretary signed as Section 32 officer while the PA signed as Financial Delegate for claims to be committed and payments made.
Financial powers were vested with the PA as the Chief Accounting Officer thus the direction from PEC was an unlawful act. The PA should have refused to accept the PEC direction or could have advised the PEC that the direction was unlawful.
The report also stated that funds for PIP had no proper project appraisals. Projects were not monitored and valued.
“It was apparent that under the pretext of project funding, public funds were disbursed without much regard for the requirements of the land principles of transparency and accountability creating an environment of fraudulent acts and cronyism,” the RAMS report stressed.
Capital assets such as motor vehicles, out boat motors, water tanks, generator sets, office equipment including computers and accessories, were bought under the PIP and given to individuals and groups without proper assets register and record.
An amount of K100,000 was expended annually from the PIP funds for a Mansava Oval Redevelopment Project. Payments were made to suppliers and individuals in relation to this project. In 2004 two political staff members received cash advances totalling K85,500 to carry out community development forums.
There were no proper acquittals and reports of the exact work done.
The report also highlighted discrepancies in the Tender Process. The New Ireland Provincial Supply and Tender Board did not meet between 2002-2007. There were not many minutes and tender documents available to indicate otherwise. Yet between 2003-2004 fixed assets to the value of K4,029,603 including motor vehicles, boats, engines and water tanks were bought.
These were also highlighted in a separate report by the Auditor General’s office.
Also in 2004, road works projects costing of K2,005,808 were awarded to contractors without following tender processes.