300,000 KINA A MONTH SALARY IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA CALLED "OBSCENE"

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 26, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Transparency International (TI) has described the monthly salary of K 300,000 (US$ 115,350) reportedly paid to Finance Pacific Ltd executive chairman Rimbink Pato as "obscene and unacceptable."

"While nurses and teachers can barely support their families on what they earn, it is unconscionable for someone employed by a public institution to be paid excessively," TI chairman Sir Anthony Siaguru said in a statement.

He called on Treasurer and Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta to do what he told Parliament he would do and look into the matter.

"If the purpose of such exorbitant salary is to attract the most qualified person for the job, then the taxpayers who are essentially the paymasters have the right to know the procedures for recruiting such an individual and the criteria by which he is employed.

"The selection process must be open and transparent to ensure accountability for the payment of such huge sums of public money," Sir Anthony said.

He said the people need to know that there was competition for the job in order to be assured that this high paying position was not filled by a political appointee.

"The Treasurer must also justify a reported annual salary of K 3.5 million (US$ 1,345,750). Did the Salaries and Conditions Monitoring Committee approve it? The Treasurer should compare it with what is paid by other banks in other countries."

Sir Anthony said that while other countries may well afford to be generous, PNG could not.

"It is not morally right that a public institution should pay such an excessive salary to one individual, who is hardly in need when children are not going to school, roads are deteriorating and babies are dying because of lack of medical care," said Sir Anthony.

"The principal of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work should apply to all of our people across the board.

"It should apply without fear or favor, regardless of whether we are the chief executive of a major public institution in Port Moresby or an aid post orderly in a remote station in rural Papua New Guinea," Sir Anthony said.

Sir Mekere told Parliament last Friday that he would make public this week the contract document stipulating how much Finance Pacific boss Rimbink Pato is being paid.

Sir Mekere said K 300,000 (US$ 115,350) a month is a lot of money, but the decision as to how much Mr. Pato is to be paid is vested with the board of Finance Pacific, which is a corporatized body, and not the National Executive Council.

Pato's monthly salary of K 300,000 (US$ 115,350) qualifies him as the highest paid executive among the countries in Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand, according to a weekend report in the Australian Financial Review.

AFR journalist Rowan Callick, who lived and worked in PNG for several years, noted that Mr. Pato had failed to get elected to Parliament in his Highlands home province of Enga three years ago and that he "has been a major backroom player in PNG politics for several years".

Mr. Pato's K 3.6 million (US$ 1,345,750) salary manages to outgun the Managing Director of Australia's most famous global company, BHP.

The AFR report would suggest Mr. Pato has a much bigger earning capacity than the chief executives of Australian banking giants such as Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ or the heads of other Australian-based multinational operations such as Shell and Esso Australia.

Other known salaries of key executives in PNG include former Lihir managing director Michael Merton, who received K 1.2 million (US$ 461,400) last year, and Orogen's former managing director Charles Lepani, who earned K 634,000 (US$ 243,773).

In a statement last week, Mr. Pato said the position of Executive Chairman of Finance Pacific, the umbrella company for the group of companies which includes PNGBC, "is one which holds a great deal of responsibility and the salary and entitlements are commensurate with such a role.

"Similar entitlements have been paid to those holding previous roles within the group, and other statutory institutions," he said.

"These entitlements are required to attract suitably qualified and respected executives."

Saturday's AFR report quoted PNG's Ombudsman Commission as recommending seven months ago "that Pato Lawyers - Mr. Pato's company - 'should not act for the State, any governmental department or other government body for five years.'"

It went on to quote the Ombudsman as saying: "Pato Lawyers allowed themselves to be paid by one party to a transaction while acting for the other party. This put Pato Lawyers in a serious conflict of interests."

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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