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Sir Michael, retinue scrutinized for Singapore trip expenses

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 3, 2012) – Sir Michael Somare and Lady Veronica are among more than 30 public servants who are now under the Task Force Sweep Team investigations for money allegedly used in Singapore while the Grand Chief was undergoing medical treatment last year.

The investigation focuses on the use of almost K4 million [US$1,848,760] when Grand Chief Sir Michael was bed ridden in a Singapore hospital for three months. Among them is Chris Haiveta, who is now an executive in the O’Neill-Namah Government.

National Planning Minister Sam Basil announced on the eve of the New Year that the Task Force sweep team has been handed the confidential list which details the millions of kina money used. He said those on the list will soon be called upon to be questioned in the New Year.

Details of the expenses, according to a report by the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council show that Grand Chief used about K400,000, Betha Somare, daughter of Sir Michael, incurred K192,583.14, while Ms. Seke Ua Karingal, Sir Michael’s personal assistant, spent K191,224.81. Next on the list was Lady Veronica Somare who spent K171,825.34, followed by Richard Gogo who spent K143,200.09 and Constable John Keai spent K107,594.91. Rodney Kamus spent K104,733.79 followed by brother of Sir Michael, Paul Somare with K76,350.60. A Mr. Tambon Tara spent K76,268.01 while Const. Rodney Eminoni spent K87,081.42 to name a few.

"The list has been given to the Task Force sweep team and arrests will soon be made," Mr. Basil said.

[PIR editor’s note: Two other PNG officials, David Kumalau Pondros and Jeffery Yakopyia, are also facing charges under investigations by the task force. Pondros allegedly misappropriated US$184,876 of the Oro provincial administration's money slated for development and infrastructure purposes. Task force chief Sam Koim has called on the nation to address corruption at all levels head-on, saying it poses a serious threat to development and infringes on basic human rights.]

But the Somare-Agiru Government welcomed the investigations and said that those involved were ready to face the Task force Sweep team.

Ms. Somare recently defended the allegations saying that Grand Chief Sir Michael was in a sick bed and had no input in all the funds used. She also said that the funds were entitlements as Sir Michael was the Prime Minister of the day at that time who was also entitled to allowances.

Timothy Bonga, the Internal Security Minister in the Somare-Agiru camp said that the Task Force Sweep Team should also look into all MPs that went as families including Don Polye, the Treasurer now in the O’Neill-Namah Government.

Rodney Kamus, personal aide to Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare yesterday said: "I have nothing to hide and I welcome any investigation by Mr. Basil as all funds used for my travel during Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s hospitalization was my entitlements as duty travel in serving the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and all records are kept. I personally was with the Prime Minister for three months along with two body guards and a protocol officer.

"Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is the Prime Minister and like every world leader, is entitled to body guards, personal aides, protocol and the list goes on whether he is in the jungles of Bulolo, Sahara Desert, New York City or in the hospital as is the case. Officers who are with him or her are given an allowance to look after themselves whilst doing their duties of serving the Prime Minister.

"I personally challenge Mr. Sam Basil to come out publicly and state his entitlements as Member of Parliament for Bulolo and purportedly Minister for National Planning," Mr. Kamus said.

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