PNG Prime Minister Appoints Australian To Lead Inquiry Into Manumanu Land Deal

Two ministers remain suspended pending outcome of the investigation

By Isaac Nicholas 

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 8, 2017) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has appointed a Queen’s Counsel from Australia, John Griffin, to lead an administrative inquiry into the controversial Manumanu land transactions.

PM O’Neill said the process of the inquiry starts today with Mr Griffin to appoint his team of professionals that will take four weeks at a cost of K2 million [US$621,000] with the report to be presented to Parliament on March 28.

He said yesterday that a commission of inquiry which he had announced could not be set up because a matter was before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of commissions of inquiry.

"The NEC has met and acknowledged that there must be principles of accountability and transparency in all transactions that all agencies of government do on behalf of the State. It is important that this has been put to question and we need to take a firm action to deal with this matter.

"It is also important to note that as I have indicated in Parliament that there will be a commission of inquiry and after so many legal advice that I have sought and because of an ongoing court action that is now before the Supreme Court.

He said the Fly River provincial government and Posman Kua lawyers had taken out a court action against the Government and NEC and the PM as chairman of NEC questioning the legality of commissions of inquiry, particularly in relation to the matter that was beforehand during that inquiry being the legal fees that were paid to many lawyers which was the subject of the inquiry.

He said a five-man Supreme Court bench sat for the hearing of that case and a decision is pending, and that questions the legality of commissions of inquiry.

"That is why NEC has decided that we will have an inquiry that is administrative in nature but the principles of accountability, transparency and all the other administrative requirements will still be conducted by a leading legal professional.

"The NEC has appointed John Griffin, QC of the Queensland Bar, to enquire and report on the five land transactions through this inquiry.

"Mr Griffin is a leading lawyer, well experienced, highly qualified and he is well versed with the laws of our country.

"This appointment will not prevent the on-going investigations that are now before the police fraud squad, the Ombudsman Commission and the Department of Personnel Management in respect of the staff and senior public servants that have been implicated in this matter.

"The inquiry will look into the role of relevant Ministers, the role of relevant departmental heads and their officers, and heads of various state owned enterprises.

"It will look at the role of the management of many of these organisations, the role of the Valuer General in terms of the valuations of the land that was purchased, and of course the recommendations of this inquiry will be made to cabinet within four (4) weeks and we report to Parliament on the findings of the inquiry."

He said the two Ministers and other departmental heads remain suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry.

PNG Post-Courier
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