PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 31, 2008) - The future of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department is in doubt after serious allegations of nepotism, double dipping and other bad practices surfaced in a report now before the Prime Minister.

The report was compiled by an investigating team from the Performance Management Unit of the Department of Prime Minister and NEC, and given to the Government to look at early this month.

The report highlighted the conduct of members of the secretariat of the inquiry, how much they earned, the ‘wantoks’ [friends and relatives] and mistresses they employed, and instances of drinking after the inquiry had adjourned. It focused on the inquiry team whose appointment have since been revoked, and replaced with a new team.

The report, compiled by Gerard Dogimab, recommended that even though a new team had been appointed, the inquiry should be abandoned because its integrity and independence had been seriously jeopardized.

Alternatively, it recommends that steps be taken to conduct an in-depth review of the administration of the inquiry before it commences.

The Prime Minister early this month sacked the team led by counsel assisting the inquiry Sarea Soi, and replaced them with a new team headed by Stephen Kassman, Nolan Kom and Dogimab. Sole commissioner former judge Maurice Sheehan was retained.

Mr. Sheehan convened a hearing three weeks ago, but adjourned indefinitely due to lack of funds to commence the inquiry.

The report highlighted that after PGK10 million [US$3.6 million] was exhausted, the previous team left a total outstanding bill of over PGK3.5 million [US$1.3 million], for personal emoluments and goods and services.

With a proposed budget of just over PGK2.6 million to revive the inquiry, the allocation of PGK5 million in the 2008 budget was not enough, the report said. Unpaid tax associated with personal emoluments amounted to almost PGK1.2 million.

A security firm believed to be co-owned by a senior member of the inquiry secretariat is owed around PGK400,000 for services it provided, even after the inquiry mandate lapsed mid last year, the report said.

The report said because of cronyism and biases, and weak leadership at the Commission Secretariat, people with vested interest were allowed to pursue their own agenda, and there were instances of drinking and entertaining of mistresses at the inquiry premises. The report alleges that confidential documents for the inquiry was also "leaked’ out by senior people in the inquiry, compromising its processes and integrity.

It said a senior member of the secretariat benefited illegally from a number of procurement of items, and was said to be keeping a vehicle bought for the inquiry.

While no adverse finding has been made against Commissioner Sheehan, the report recommended that serious consideration be given to replacing him if the inquiry is to continue.

Sources said last night the Prime Minister is expected to make a public statement after being fully briefed on the report, and its implications on the pending inquiry.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment