By Staff Reporter : PNG Today
Two Papua New Guinea Parliament Cabinet ministers have stepped down from their ministerial responsibilities. Minister for Defence, Fabian Pok, and the Minister for State Enterprises, William Duma, have stepped aside from their ministerial responsibilities pending the conclusion and outcomes of the Commission of Inquiry. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill announced the following statement on the inquiry.
"Following full examination of briefs provided to me by Government agencies involving the Manumanu land deal in, Central Province, it is in the public interest that I have decided to establish a Commission of Inquiry to examine the allegations that have been levelled against senior ministers and senior members of departments.
I have also referred this matter to the Police Commissioner for the Fraud Squad to carry out its own investigation, and also to the Ombudsman Commission for and leadership code breaches for their own investigations as well.
As I stated in the Parliament session last week, the National Executive Council did not have any visibility or given any specific approval for the purchase of land by these two agencies of Government.
NEC had given approval for the intergovernmental agencies to work together for the long-term relocation of the naval base, and for the relocation of Murray Barracks and Taurama Barracks.
But at no time had NEC given any approval, that is required for transactions above ten million Kina that has to come through Cabinet for approval, this did not happen.
These transfers required intergovernmental agencies, to facilitate, and to facilitated the Government’s decision to relocate the army barracks and naval base.
It appears that individual Government agencies have taken it upon themselves, without proper checks and balances, to undertake land acquisition arrangements.
That is why the Commission of Inquiry must deal with these issues, and the manner in which these decisions were carried out.
A significant focus of investigations will be on the sale and purchase of portion 406 in Manumanu at a cost of 46 million Kina by Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH), and also the purchase of portions 422 for 7.2 million Kina and 423 for 9.2 million Kina by Department of Defence.
Other land transfers to be investigated are land portion 406, that is owned by Kurkuramb Estates Limited, portion 422 owned by Flystone Limited, portion 423 is owned by Kosi Investment Limited.
In addition to that, the Department of Defence also acquired portion 698 behind ATS at a cost of 15.4 million Kina from Kitoro Number 64 Limited
I have also noted the funding for portion 406 was derived from MVIL, and as part of this investigation, it will look into the Boards of both MVIL to KCH.
As former Minister Micah stated in Parliament last week, the total cost of all of these transaction is 78.4 million Kina.
This is a large sum of money, a large transaction. There needs to be accountability and transparency. Cabinet made a decision in 2012, to relocate these defence facilities to a suitable site.
We expect Government Departments and relevant agencies, including KCH, to ensure that this is done in a planned structured manner so that we can all have visibility of the transactions taking place.
It is now clear that these agencies of Government have not worked together in a co-ordinate way to facilitate the implementation of the 2012 Government NEC decision. The acquisition of this land has been done in clear violation of the Governments decision, and resulted in 78.4 million Kina being paid.
Today, I have instructed all relevant Government agencies to furnish full reports on how this land has been acquired, and I am certain that they will assist with investigations by the Commission of Inquiry, the Police Fraud Squad and the Ombudsman Commission.
The Commission of Inquiry will be led by a very experienced and credible person, a retired judge, to investigate all aspects of this purchase covering all of this land. We will make an announcement soon as soon as we finalise arrangements.
This will investigation include the conduct of senior officials at the Department of Defence, the Department of Lands and Physical Planning, Kumul Consolidated Holdings, the Office of the Valuer General, the Office of the State Solicitor and the Department of Treasury, and the Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited (MVIL) trust.
These investigation will also include the private sector, people who owned those portions of land, and anybody else who was involved in the sale of this particular land.
As of today, I am also announcing that the Minister for Defence, Hon. Fabian Pok, and the Minister for State Enterprises, Hon. William Duma, will step aside from their ministerial responsibilities pending the conclusion and outcomes of the Commission of Inquiry.
In the interim, the Ministry for State Enterprises will be taken care of by the Honourable Charles Abel, Minister for National Planning, and the Ministry for Defence will be taken care of by the Honourable Mao Zeming, the Minister for Fisheries.
I have further recommended, for NEC consideration tomorrow, the suspension of the Secretary for the Department of Defence, the suspension of the Secretary for the Department of Lands and Physical Planning, the suspension of the Valuer General, the suspension of the Managing Director of KCH, and the suspension of the Managing Director of MVIL, pending the outcome of this investigation.
It was the intention of the Government to do this properly, and right and fairly, and ensure NEC decisions, including the relocation of Murray Barracks and Taurama Barracks, must be done in the best interests of the public.
The people of our country want to know the outcomes of these investigations, and they will be given the opportunity to provide information to the various investigations – through the Commission of Inquiry, Police Fraud Squad and the Ombudsman Commission.
It is only proper that these allegations against senior members of the Government and the public service, that they be afforded the principles of natural justice and be given the opportunity to answer these allegations.
We want to clearly demonstrate to our country and to our people that our Government is committed to the principles and practices of good governance.
Today’s decisions are done in the best interests of our people".