PNG TO INVESTIGATE CITIZENSHIP SCAM

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, May 29) – The Papua New Guinea Foreign Affairs Department is to carry out a full investigation into allegations of bribery and corrupt practices within the Immigration and Citizenship section.

And Foreign Affairs Secretary Gabriel Pepson said yesterday he would recommend the investigation be headed by the Prime Minister’s Department.

He said the other members on the investigation team would be from the police trans-national crime unit, the Attorney General, Labour, Personnel Management and the Foreign Affairs departments.

Mr Pepson, while condemning threats by Foreign Affairs staff on members of the media, particularly this newspaper after it broke the story on alleged cash for visas and citizenship last week, said yesterday he would want a comprehensive investigation into the division.

He said an in-house disciplinary committee was looking at the allegations levelled against the department, particularly the Immigrations and Citizenship division.

Mr Pepson said the investigation should not only look at the allegations but make recommendations into how best the division could be structured to rid itself of such allegations. He said the public should also be called into giving evidence against not only department staff but also of companies or foreigners involved in bribing public servants.

Mr Pepson said it took two people to commit an office and both sides must be brought to the light.

He said he had taken out a paid advertisement in both newspapers on May 5 and highlighted the costs related to the different fees because visas or work permits and other fees had a set amount paid only to the Finance Department and not the Foreign Affairs.

Mr Pepson said he could do only so much and the public, both Papua New Guineans and foreigners, should help in stopping bribery or any corrupt practices by reporting such activities directly to his office and provide evidence.

He said the Office of Immigra-tions employed only 25 people, which, he said, was not enough to deal with the workload.

Mr Pepson said compared to a small country like Fiji which had 122 staff members, 25, was easily not enough. He blamed the Department of Personnel Management for slowing the process when the increase in capacity had been budgeted for and approved by Cabinet.

This paper last week reported foreigners having paid K10,000 directly to several senior officers of the department to have their citizenship applications pro-cessed. K10,000 is the cost of an application for cititizenshikp and this money is paid and receipted by a Finance Department Cash office, and is not payable direct to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A reporter was confronted outside a hotel last Friday night and a cameraman was held for several minutes at the Foreign Affairs office yesterday.

Meanwhile, the director general of the Immigrations and Citizenship division, Steven Barampataz has been stood down pending investigations into the published allegations.

A source from the department told the Post-Courier Mr Barampataz was to be replaced by Joel Nobetau, once a senior official in Canberra with experience in the immigrations and citizenship division.

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