WIDESPREAD GRAFT DETAILED AT PNG MINISTRY

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 14) - A Chinese businessman gave K50,000 (US$15,700) to the Department of Trade and Industry last year to facilitate approvals for his business operations in PNG, according to documents obtained by The National.

The department used the money to purchase computers for the office and establish a loan facility for staff members, the documents reveal.

Copies of the documents have been given to the Ombudsman Commission, the Parliamentary Public Accounts committee and the Treasury Secretary.

The money was given to the department while Jonathan Soten, currently suspended, was the secretary.

The documents give details of widespread abuse of funds and misappropriation totaling K112,539.09 (US$35,337), which have been paid out by the department as housing advances and transport allowances.

The documents also gave details of K370,000 (US$116,180) paid to a local consultant. The payment was made without the proper procedures being followed.

The documents also point out that a senior departmental staff member was paid K9,351.53 (US$2,936) to undertake a trip to Tabaggo and Trinidad in January this year.

However, the officer cancelled the trip and to date, the money has not been refunded.

The same officer is alleged to have booked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Port Moresby with his personal assistant (a female) and ran up a bill of K5,000 (US$1,570) in December last year.

In relation to the Chinese businessman’s payment to the department, K20,000 (US$6,280) was used to buy computers and K30,000 (US$9,420) went to the department’s staff association for a personnel loan scheme, which attracted a 20 percent interest spread over eight to 15 fortnights.

Soten could not be contacted for comment because he is under suspension but an officer from the acting Secretary Alois Tabereng’s office confirmed the documents and existence of such a loan scheme for staff members.

October 15, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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