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Finance Department focus of probe

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 15, 2008) - A new Commission of Inquiry has been set up to investigate the misuse and management of public funds by the Finance Department in the past six years.

It will be headed by Justice Maurice Sheehan, supported by commissioners Justice Cathy Davani and Don Manoa.

Stephen Kassman the counsel assisting, told a press briefing yesterday the inquiry has been reconstituted after the termination of the previous Finance Inquiry. It will begin on Thursday, with a schedule of witnesses to be called in to give evidence.

Mr. Kassman said the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the commission are fairly wide.

The TOR requires the Commission of Inquiry to investigate into the handling of public money in excess of PGK300,000 [US$121,000] by the Department of Finance between the periods the January 1, 2002 to July 1, 2006.

More than 400 files have been opened by the inquiry’s team of investigators and lawyers who are ready to make a presentation in relation to some 30 files. Details of these files will be released at the opening on Thursday.

According to the TOR set by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on May 12, this year, the inquiry will:

Kassman said the inquiry would be for nine months. Witnesses to be called in are Ian Augerea, the Registrar of the National and Supreme Courts on Thursday and the Solicitor General, Secretary for the Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Attorney General will be called in on Friday.

The Secretaries for Finance and treasury will be called in next Monday.

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