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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, August 14) – The Morobe administration has moved swiftly to rid the Lae City Council of a pyramid scheme known as Questnet International.

Administrator Manasupe Zurenuoc on Friday suspended city manager Bart Ipambonj and director of social services Ray Dujambi to allow for an investigation into allegations of their involvement in Questnet. Mr Zurenuoc said there had been a public outcry and also concerns raised by rate payers and businesses over the reported involvement of senior officers within the council with Questnet. He said the actions taken now were also the result of a report in the Post-Courier on the alleged involvement of the senior officers and use of council facilities and funds for Questnet operations.

It had also been alleged facilities and funds of the council were being used to run Questnet. "Rate payers are concerned that municipal services have completely stalled, yet the senior officers of the council are alleged to be taking the lead in running and facilitating the activities of Questnet," Mr Zurenuoc said. He said the alleged involvement of the senior officers and the use of facilities and funds of the council had given the impression it was a government-sanctioned scheme, thus many people joining. Mr Zurenuoc appointed one of his deputy administrators, Patilias Gamato (district services) to head up the investigation, assisted by staff officer John Wek. The investigators would submit their findings to Mr Zurenuoc on August 23.

Mr Zurenuoc has also appointed Kasen Bala as acting city manager. "I can't have this any more. We are acting to rid the Lae Urban LLG of this scheme, which is preying on the workers who are made to invest their hard-earned kina, convinced they would get windfalls," Mr Zurenuoc said. "The rank and file of the staff of the council, as well as LLG and ward workers, are all in it," he said. He said a check with the Bank of PNG has also shown that it is not a registered financial services institution.

The terms of references of the inquiry are: l Verify with the Central Bank whether Questnet is an authorised financial institution; l Ascertain the involvement of the city manager and director of social services in Questnet; l Investigate Whether council funds had been used on Questnet activities; l Investigate whether council facilities - offices, chamber, emails, photocopiers and telephones, letterheads, titles and positions have been used for Questnet activities; and l Investigate whether any contractual work has been allocated to any contractor who is involved with Questnet, and whether council workers have been induced to become involved in the scheme.

August 15, 2006

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