PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 16) - A tribunal has found Papua New Guinea’s auditor-general, Mark Wani, guilty of 33 counts of misconduct in office.

The tribunal, chaired by Justice Nicholas Kirriwom and assisted by acting Justices George Manuhu and Cosmas Bidar, delivered its decision in an 85-page judgment in a Port Moresby courtroom yesterday.

Justice Kirriwom said Mr Wani was specifically charged with 11 counts of misconduct in office, four counts of failing to submit annual statements to the Ombudsman Commission and nine counts each for using his office for his personal gain and misappropriating public money. 

He said counts 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20 and 23 related to Mr Wani asking for and accepting benefits by reason of his position and using his official position for his benefit, adding “he used the office like his private bank”.

“We have summarized that in all breaches of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) determination, the benefits derived by the leader (Mr Wani) include direct payments, payment ahead of time, excessive payment or unlawful entitlements totaling K248,376 (US$77,000),” said Justice Kirriwom.

“As Auditor-General, the leader should know what his office stands for in relation to public funds. Instead, the leader acted in total contradiction to the reason for the existence of an Auditor-General, who is conferred with the people’s mandate as a watchdog over public funds.”

Mr Wani allegedly committed the acts between February 1998 — a month into his appointment as the country’s Auditor- General — and April this year.

Giving an analysis of the evidence, the tribunal was critical of Mr Wani’s actions as they were in total disregard of lawful established processes, such as Mr Wani’s breach of the SRC determination No.G97-02 on 28 occasions, between March 1998 and October 2002.

The tribunal heard that Mr Wani received about K14,827 (US$4,600) in that period for personal entertainment expenses he was not entitled to.

Justice Kirriwom said only the Prime Minister, his deputy, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader were eligible for entertainment allowances of about K15,000.

He said the Auditor-General, judges and other recipients were in the third category after State Ministers, the Police Commissioner and the PNGDF Commander. An auditor-general qualified for a K5200 entertainment allowance.

“For example, on 29 March 2001, a sum of K415 was remitted to the leader for ‘entertainment allowance’ in Lae through PNG Post SMK service,” said Justice Kirriwom.

“He benefited immensely from his office, he was able to use his position to have money cashed and sent to him wherever he was.”

December 16, 2003

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