AIR NIUGINI BUYS INTO SINGAPORE AIRLINES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 25, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The Air Niugini board authorized the purchase of 20,000 Singapore Airlines shares worth K 80,000 (US$ 33,104) about two weeks ago, chairman Sir Michael Bromley said yesterday.

He said SIA had approached Air Niugini to purchase the shares before they were offered to the public at S$2.05 each.

Sir Michael said: "The shares were offered to us because we do our maintenance with Singapore Airlines and they are floating off a new company to all their good and loyal customers before they went out on public offering. They were offered to us as part of an engineering contract we have signed with the Singapore Airlines.''

The issue of the share purchase came to light recently when MP for Madang Jacob Wama asked a series of questions in Parliament regarding an expatriate Air Niugini employee's part in the purchase.

Sir Michael confirmed that he had authorized the now suspended finance manager Steve Wilks to buy the shares because Air Niugini had to "make a quick decision."

"And any problems would be "rectified in the next board meeting in a couple of days time."

The share purchase was highlighted recently in Parliament by Mr. Wama, which resulted in managing director Andrew Ogil suspending Mr. Wilks to allow for investigations.

Sources claimed that 10,000 shares worth S$20,500 were bought and a bank check of K 30,000 (US$ 12,414) was made to SIA under the name of an Air Niugini employee in Singapore on May 9 - a claim Sir Michael denied.

Sir Michael stressed the board was interested in accountability and transparency and leakage of information should not have happened, adding it was the work of people who wanted to destabilize the airline.

In a turn of events to the shares saga, the board then met a week ago and suspended Mr. Ogil and appointed Michael Buleau to act in the position.

Minister for Privatization Vincent Auali, who had reserved his comments regarding Mr. Ogil's suspension, said yesterday that he had accepted the board's decision on the suspension.

In yet more developments, Mr. Auali said the Auditor-General's office will step in to take over from the two auditing firms Deloitte Touche Tomatsu and PriceWaterhouseCoopers to carry on the investigations at Air Niugini.

He said: "There were some serious allegations raised in the National Parliament against the management of Air Niugini.

"The Auditor-General having come to know the seriousness of these allegations and the importance of them, in the national and public interest, has advised me as Minister responsible for Air Niugini that the department of Auditor-General will be carrying out the investigations."

Mr. Auali said the first two stages of the investigations will be completed by tomorrow and a report of the findings will be furnished to him as Minister responsible for Corporatization and Privatization as stipulated under Section 8 of the Audit Act.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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