Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton
As Peter O’Neill seeks to gain absolute power and control over revenues from Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML), another power hungry man, Paul Anthony Povey, rises to fame and fortune through mismanagement and corruption of the mine’s umbrella landowner company, Fubilan Catering Services (FCS).
The power monopoly was established on the arrival of the new incumbent to the job of CEO of Ok Tedi, Alan Breen, in 2007, when he removed the reputable international caterer, Eurest South Pacific, as managers of FCS and appointed a single person, Paul Povey as Manager.
Observers attribute the start of Povey’s rise to fame, fortune and power to the very close personal relationship he established with Breen between 2007 and 2010.
With this appointment, Povey gained control over the company’s management, it’s finances and overwhelming influence over the ill-educated, ill-informed and ignorant local directors who represent the shareholders in the investment company Star Mountain whose investment (FCS) Povey was managing.
Favours for friends and living the high life
Despite criticism from the OTML community, Breen, compromising the integrity of the office of the Managing Director, pursued the relationship with Povey to the point of using his position to influence decisions in Povey’s favour.
A Tabubil resident said at one stage, Povey asked Breen to instruct managers of OTML’s chartered airline service, Asia Pacific Airlines, where Povey’s wife Samoa works as a flight attendant, to immediately raise her wages.
The Povey-Breen relationship also saw Breen’s stepdaughter, Jessica Waller, obtain a work permit and visa to replace a national and work under Povey as Manager of the Tabubil Golf Club.
Povey’s FCS-funded hospitality extended to a close circle of expatriate OTML employees and their spouses who enjoyed weekly parties filled with fine food, endless alcohol supply and music. And they’d still be going on, if not for Povey’s recent hospitalization for a sciatic complaint.
Counted amongst Povey’s regular guests from OTML are current Managing Director of OkTedi, Nigel Parker (Breen’s successor) and wife Pakki, Security manager Trevor Green and his wife Rowena, Ok Tedi Development Foundation CEO Ian Middleton and Human Resource manager Brad McMahon – the names supplied by another invited guest.
In fact, an Australian woman who lived in Tabubil for over six years told PNG Echo that Povey made life in Tabubil bearable for OTML expatriate employees and their families.
Considering the remoteness of Tabubil, those of us who were friends of Paul and Samoa were eating and drinking like kings and queens. We had great meals on their verandah and partied every weekend at their music den under their house.
Fubilan Catering: their genesis, their raison’d’être and their assets
With offices in Tabubil and Brisbane, the FCS group is currently valued at over K11 million. Its most successful revenue earner is its K5 million per annum catering contract with OTML.
Its other businesses include an engineering and hardware venture in Tabubil and Kiunga and the Weigh Inn Hotel in Konedobu.
FCS was established under Mineral Resources Star Mountain (MRSM) – a subsidiary of the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) – for the sole purpose of investing Ok Tedi mine-derived royalty and compensation payments and dividends for long term benefits of shareholders from traditional villagers that own the land on which Ok Tedi mine and Tabubil are built.
A final word
Current Managing Director of OTML, an alleged recipient of Povey’s hospitality, commented:
OTML values transparency and accountability, but neither would be promoted by commenting on or contributing to anonymous rumours. You should note that FCS is an independent corporate contractor with its own shareholders and governance overseen by MRDC. It is incorrect and patronising to suggest that OTML is the ‘custodian’ of FCS.
But is it only MRDC that should bear any responsibility? Surely OTML have a moral obligation? Ensuring future good governance seems to have been the intention of BHP upon its exit in 2001/2002 when it had OTML put in place internal controls and governance programs to help FCS and other landowner companies maintain best practice in their operations – why were they removed?
Next week, auditors’ observations, details of cash allowances for FCS board and management staff and their spouses and an email from former MRSM company secretary Aleena Bird alleging abuse of office by Povey.