Officials Seek Removal Of PNG Defence Force Commander

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Francis Agwi accused of abusing funds, insubordination

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 28, 2012) – The National Executive Council (NEC) is expected to decide on the future of the commander of Papua New Guinea’s Defence Force (PNGDF), Brigadier-General Francis Agwi in the New Year.

Defence Minister Dr. Fabian Pok, a member of the United Resources Party, is working on a Cabinet submission to have commander Agwi replaced.

There is already a short list of four candidates to succeed Brig-Gen. Agwi, including Colonel Geoffrey Wiri and Colonel Joseph Fabila who are current front-runners for the job. In his submission, Dr. Pok highlights what he alleges is a serious breakdown in command and control in the PNG Defence Force, as well as the alleged misuse of funds earmarked for the Commercial Support Program (CSP), initiated by the PNGDF.

Dr. Pok’s submission also highlights a number of serious disciplinary cases involving PNG Defence Force soldiers in recent months which the commander had allegedly failed to address properly. The submission also highlights an alleged act of insubordination by the commander when he apparently refused to implement certain lawful instructions issued by the Minister for Defence and also the National Court.

Among them were decisions to approve the promotions and appointments of a number of senior military officers in the army.

On the CSP allegations raised in Dr. Pok’s submission, according to a confidential report to Brigadier-General Agwi on September 10, 2012, more than K1 million [US$478.490] that was held in the CSP account was transferred to the Command Officers Mess Ball account and "misused."

The report detailed all transactions from the Command Officers Mess Account, with the author claiming the use of the funds was "immoral, dishonest and corrupt."

"Sir (Commander Agwi) I wish to formally inform you that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the Command Officers Mess Ball account was mismanaged by the former Officers Mess executives between 2008 and 2011.

"I took interest in the irregularity because this anomaly was highlighted for the former CSP manager and also during the reconciliation of the CSP Trust Account.

"While pursuing the mess account, I’ve noted that the manner in which the mess executives used the monies was immoral, thus leading to dishonestly and corruption," Colonel Joe Ben, the manager of the CSP said in his report.

Colonel Ben strongly recommended that an internal investigation be carried out into the use of the funds or that the Police Fraud Squad called in to investigate the use of these funds.

According to the summary of transactions made from that account, a lot of payments were made on cash checks and the money was collected from the bank by senior military officers who were recently promoted.

This report forms part of the core of allegations that are highlighted in Dr. Pok’s submission push for the termination of Brig-Gen Agwi’s tenure in office.

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