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By Neville Choi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 6, 2000 – The Independent)---Transparency International PNG Chairman Sir Anthony Siaguru has called for foreign companies who bribe PNG officials to be punished.

Sir Anthony said this while commending Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta and Internal Revenue Commissioner General David Sode for their quick actions, which resulted in the suspension of a senior Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) officer following allegations and an investigation into a tax evasion scam by a foreign logging company in Madang.

According to Sir Anthony, a ban on doing business in PNG for at least five years on foreign companies found to have offered or paid bribes to government officials would be a possible penalty.

"Bribery is a two-way street. Those who offer the bribe are just as guilty as those who accept it. Foreign companies who wish to do business here must understand that they face penalties if they attempt to corrupt our government officials," says Sir Anthony.

He described the scam as a classic case of corruption involving high-ranking officials on the take.

"Corruption should be a concern to every honest politician who cares about their constituents. The government, on the other hand, serves all citizens and must take all allegations of corruption seriously; tax evasion is theft from the public purse.

"When taxes aren’t paid, roads aren’t built, hospitals aren’t equipped and school books aren’t printed," Sir Anthony said.

He also commented on the suspension of the officer implicated and said, "This sends a clear message that corrupt public servants, no matter how senior, will be prosecuted and those found guilty will be rooted out."

The Independent understands that investigations into the tax evasion scam were carried out by the Internal Affairs division of the IRC and are near closure.

Barely a year old, the Internal Affairs division of the IRC has already justified its existence. The determination the IRC has demonstrated not to tolerate collusion by its officers is an example to others.

Sir Anthony said that other departments could do with an Internal Affairs division to effectively curb cases of extortion and the like.

"The IRC sets an example to other departments which need to clean house," suggested Sir Anthony.

While commending the IRC, he said that TIPNG also recognized the collaboration required to successfully investigate cases of corruption. The IRC currently works closely with different government departments and the police, which, in turn, coordinates its efforts with other government agencies.

"The greater the collaboration, the less dependency on one agency or its head, who could so easily obstruct any internal investigation. While dishonest bureaucrats deserved to be punished, so do the foreign companies that pay bribes," Sir Anthony said.

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

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