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Punaha denies any wrongdoing

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, January, 3, 2009) – Pangtel chairman Ansgar Palauva has strongly defended three of his management executives against allegations of misconduct in office and misuse of more than PGK8.9 million [US$4.8 million].

Pangtel boss Charles Punaha and two other executives are being investigated by Ombudsman Commission for an alleged misuse of funds from 2005 to 2007.

[PIR editor’s note: Pangtel is the licensing authority of Papua New Guinea’s telecommunications industry. Chairman denies any wrongdoing.]

Mr. Punaha also denied the claims and said they were from disgruntled ex-employees.

Papers presented to the Ombudsman Commission by the sacked principal legal officer allege that Punaha and two other senior executives (named) paid themselves an excessive amount of money, purchased vehicles without proper authority, used Interest Bearing

Deposit (IBD) monies, awarded contracts illegally, illegal charges and termination of Pangtel employees, illegally selling company properties and occupying the office when the position was up for grabs.

The Post-Courier received a copy of the letter to the Ombudsman December 3, 2007 written to Communication Minister Patrick Tamur and the Ombudsman.

The Post-Courier also has a copy of the response from Pangtel chairman Ansgar Palauva written to the Ombudsman and other responsible Government leaders.

Pangtel advised last week that Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari was currently handling the investigations. Last week the paper could not speak to Ombudsman Sangetari but the Ombudsman Commission office confirmed the case was under investigations but could not provide the full details as they claimed the matter was still being looked at by officers.

But Pangtel chairman Mr.Palauva defended his management in a written response, the same presented to the Ombudsman Commission, refuting claims that his team misused money and added that they were smear campaigns to damage Punaha and his team.

"We categorically refute and deny the generalisation of allegations that Punaha misappropriated Pangtel funds totalling

K8,825,000 [US$3.4 million]and we challenge the complainants to justify the allegations with evidence, otherwise it may seem to be that aggrieved persons are on a smear campaign for their own needs," Palauva said.

"We confirm that in August 2007, Punaha approved for the purchase of eight vehicles in the sum of K597,498.85 as replacement of existing vehicles which collectively had been used for periods between five to 10 years, thus resulting in high maintenance and running costs.

"We confirm that the board has delegated certain financial authority to members of the executive management, as per our delegation of financial authority.

"Pangtel also has an in-house supply and tenders committee comprising members of the management, with director-corporate services as the chairman and the chief accountant as the secretary. "The board chairman also refuted claims of alleged mismanagement issues in relation to:

NEW operations department offices within the headquarters premises;

FIVE-Mile flats;

MISCELLANEOUS minor maintenance works; and

MAJOR licence issued and spectrum usage agreement executed.

Meanwhile Mr Punaha also denied these allegations, claiming they were mere allegations put out by disgruntled employees who were terminated from the company for non-performance.

Punaha said he was clear of all these allegations and that these were reports done and distributed by former employees who were disgruntled about their termination or sacking.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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