PNG Power: Where’s the money (part two)

By PNG Echo.

The Fraud Squad is either grossly incompetent or corrupt – there is no third way.

The ineffective and ineffectual heads of the Fraud Squad
The ineffective and ineffectual heads of the Fraud Squad

companies related to Mr Tangit [CEO of PNG Power Ltd (PPL)]and his close relatives have received payment of K16 million from from PPL. Combined with the K15 million received from both the [East Sepik] Provincial (K10 million) and [Angoram] District Government (K5 million), it appears that Mr. Tangit and his close relatives have received K31 million through various entities for the period, 19 February 2009 to 30 September 2015.

As CEO of PPL, this represents a serious conflict of interests, even if that were all there was to it – but it’s not – the money has all been paid out, but as of October 2015 there was no evidence of even the commencement of the project referred to anywhere.

Highly confidential (and why’s that?)

The above quote was taken from a 35-page report marked ‘HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL’ of which I am in receipt.

It was commissioned as a result of questions being asked in parliament as to why, when funds had been allocated and deposited by Members of Parliament into the coffers of PPL for the Rural Electrification Project (RE Project), these projects were not completed, were behind schedule or significantly over budget. It was the July 2015 session of parliament.

In response, on 15 September, 2015, the Minister then responsible, Hon Ben Micah along with Mr Garry Hersey Managing Director (MD) and Chief executive officer (CEO) of the IPBC and Mr John Mangos, then Executive Director of PPL engaged an Australian forensic investigation company to look into allegations of corporate impropriety at PPL.

Déjà Vu

I have read this report in detail, with a pervasive feeling of déjà vu: I’ve heard it all before: it was in different times and different places but a very familiar modus operandi.

It evokes the non-existent Wasa Bridge in Kandep, associated with Don Polye and the non-existent community colleges – a fraud for which the Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare and certain members of his family have been implicated in the Singapore courts.

Coincidentally (or not?), the RE [non] Project also involves the Somares as the project was to be undertaken in the district of Angoram (Arthur Somare’s seat at the time) and involved the East Sepik Provincial Government.

The Angoram RE Project

It is the K15 million paid out to two contractors to which the report dedicates much investigation.

K10 million was from the coffers of East Sepik Administration that had been deposited by Sir Michael Somare into that account (it is not stipulated under what authority and from whence it came but the K10 million was earmarked for the project) and over K5 million that was received by the contractor from the Angoram District Administration for alleged variations to this non-existent project of which the investigators admitted finding no evidence  (and they looked)

The K10 million remained with the Provincial Government until the contracts to carry out the project were awarded and then it was transferred to PPL.

The report highlights the gross abuses of process that allowed vested interests to win the tendering process and commandeer the project without fulfilling the contract.

The tendering process

Implicated in just about everything – is John Tangit CEO of PNG Power whose ‘wantoks’ were the proprietors of the companies that won the four-part Angoram RE Project – three parts to PNG Engineering – the registered owner being Mr Richard Pii, brother-in-law of John Tangit and one part to Sepik Metal the registered owner being Mr Patrick Wolly Tangit, the brother of John Tangit.

john-tangit-ceo-png-power
John Tangit, erstwhile CEO of PNG Power Ltd.

The investigation team found evidence of John Tangit’s direct involvement with the tendering process on his desktop computer.

What’s more, these two companies seemed to have been made aware of the exact amount of money allocated for the project and their estimates coincided exactly (similar to insider trading). The three-parts of the project for which PNG Engineering won the tender were split into K3 million each, notwithstanding the very different parameters of each individual part. In other words the tender was neither accurate nor competent.

Further to the questionable estimates of PNG Engineering, the investigation teams noticed an assessment of 15/15 that had been awarded by the tenders’ assessment team to PNG Engineering for experience, a ridiculous score when the company was only five months old.

As for Sepik Metal, the other successful tenderer, they did not even gain the highest score in the assessment but got the contract because they came in exactly on budget – a little insider knowledge goes a long way.

As such, it could not be confidently asserted that either of these two companies were the best companies for the job regardless of conflicts of interest.

What’s more, on digging deeper into these two companies and their affiliates, many more links of John Tangit’s pecuniary involvement were uncovered.

John Tangit has been much more brazen even than Don Polye was when he awarded the Wasa Bridge contract to a crony – at least he didn’t ostensibly hand the contract to himself.

There’s nothing new here

Of the three issues, Wasa Bridge, Community Colleges and now the Angoram RE Project, there is nothing new.

In Kandep, an estimate K71 million has been allocated to the project and the contractors – and no bridge.

In 17 districts of PNG a whopping K156 million has been allocated and spent – and not one Community College to show for it. (“Leave the Grand Chief alone – he’s the Father of the nation,” you say– where’s that ironic font?)

In comparison, the K31 million gone missing from the Angoram RE Project is a mere bagatelle but a huge amount none the less in any context, but especially in one where many people exist on a couple of kina a day and women still die in childbirth at alarming rates through lack of governmental services (maybe in Angoram it’s from lack of electricity.)

This was brutally brought home to me recently when I heard that there was a drive to vaccinate potential mothers in PNG against tetanus. What on earth for?

In my world, tetanus is not considered a risk factor for birthing mothers. But it is where mothers habitually give birth on the ground in the dust and the dirt or the mud and the filth.

Yet here we are – talking of K31 million as if it were nothing – because everything is relative and the relationship of various acts of thievery is regularly and usually counted in millions in PNG.

To date, no one has found a way or a will to successfully prosecute these crimes. Why not?

Inadequacy of the agencies of the state.

For a journalist, once is an incident, twice is suspect and by the third time, it’s a trend.  And this mode of corruption is quite the trend in PNG. Yet it’s brazen, and not even particularly sophisticated.

What’s more, in two of these cases, there has either been a very competent Singapore court (Community Colleges) that has done the hard investigative work or a thorough investigation by a reputable independent investigator (Angoram RE Project).  As for the Wasa Bridge, if the authorities wanted some evidence of where to look – they could do worse than start with PNG Echo’s own investigation.

Yet it doesn’t happen, does it?  Why not?

If the agencies of the state, and the state itself, cannot recognise this brazen and obvious trend and put in place ways to successfully prevent and prosecute the crimes, then the agencies are either incompetent or corrupt themselves.

I find it hard to believe that in the PNG Power saga ,all Fraud Squad’s energies were put into prosecuting John Mangos for alleged visa infringements and an alleged K62,000 for which there was no viable evidence – Mangos would argue that it doesn’t exist – yet with all the credible evidence available to them – nothing has been done on the missing millions.

I re-iterate – the Fraud Squad is either grossly incompetent or corrupt – there is no third way.

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The Inaugural VONC Awards

By PNG Echo

To recognise outstanding achievement in matters concerning the Vote of No Confidence the committee (me) would like to make the following awards. In the category of

KNaru_ResizedBest Speech the winner is:
KELLY NARU
– the Governor of Morobe who displayed a profound understanding of the issues surrounding this vote and articulated them with a razor sharp analysis – especially in that which concerned the ‘Separation of Powers’.

1609803_10152547043623574_471502395_nThe Yeah Yeah Yeah award also goes to Morobe and is won by:
SAM BASIL– who displayed none of the above but whose words inspired the next award.

The Mispronunciation award, that goes to the word:
OPPOSHISHUN closely rivalled by DESHISHUN

In the ‘Best Dressed’ category the award was unanimously voted as going to:
BEN MICAH – Was his suit a political statement or does he just look good in yellow?

 

0317np2The Let’s Keep Them Guessing award goes to:
PAIAS WINGTI – who kindly kept the whole nation entertained for seven days playing ‘Where’s Wingti’?  He was in Port Moresby and voted with government.  Who got it right?

 

James-MarapeIn the category of Best Comeback the award goes to:
JAMES MARAPE – whose quick and incisive replies floored a couple of prominent members of the Opposition including Kerenga Kua, the practiced litigator.

 

5160696-3x2-940x627Best timing goes to:
THEO ZURENUOC: – the Speaker of the House whose call for a vote was a relief to most (see the ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ category that proved to be a strongly contested award) and that prompted the following category of…

 

Namah styleBest Tantrum and was won by:
BELDEN NAMAH – who is poised to make this category his own with his foot-stamping, fist thumping rhetoric – “Give us a chance to debate – I will not sit down until I debate.” He must be still standing because in the next category…

6a00d83454f2ec69e2017c32c40800970b-800wiBest Sense of Humour, …where the winner is, once again, Speaker of the House:
THEO ZURENUOC – He presided over the proceedings with good humour, a ready smile and who wisely responded not with sanctions, but with amused laughter at the above recalcitrant.

Peter+O'NeillBut the Gold VONC goes to the Honourable PETER O’NEILL, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (then and now) for his decisive win of 85 to 21.

Hail the Chief.

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Why not Juffa?

By PNG Echo

The warlord's son - with his weapon of choice
The warlord’s son – with his weapon of choice

Don Polye, the Engan warlord, whose election result has been set aside on more than one occasion for suspected and proven tampering (including the most recent one), who is implicated in many corruption scandals including (but not only) the unresolved Paraka case, who has been rejected and sidelined by every government he’s served under, not least of all for incompetence, has been named as the alternative Prime Minister.

Is this the best the Opposition can do?

I’ve maintained (and am unlikely to resile from the position) that the Opposition is not a fit outfit to run a country.   They are a motley crew of the disaffected, disgruntled and rejected – all with knives sharpened to do each other in at the earliest opportunity.

I think they’ve already done Ben Micah in.

According to a government press release, Micah, when denied what Minister Marape has labelled “unreasonable demands” to whit: to be given the Deputy Prime Minister’s Portfolio (the good Minister considering Micah ” …does not have the stature, experience and respect required to be Deputy Prime Minister.”) he gathered up all his toys, like a spoilt child, and left – disgruntled, disaffected and rejected.

Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau? Does ben know?
Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau?

Only he left a few behind, like the Chans – the most useful toys in his stash.

How would he perform as DPM when he can’t even maintain the following of a small political party? I do, though, wonder how Micah found himself in oppositional no man’s land – no nomination as alternative Prime Minister – not even Deputy (they’ve got Basil, who’s made that role his own.)

The only reasonable explanation is that he did more than just sulked away – likely left with a whip behind him.  Ah, you never know how humble you can be – until being humble is all the choice you have.
(Apologies to the unknown sage whose words of wisdom I’ve bastardized)

Mind you, the Opposition are so few that, at this stage, promising Ministerial portfolios would not be a problem.

However, once they’re all gone – what do they have left that’s in the least attractive for the other MPs and for the country? Not a lot.

Yet we are being regaled, in the social media, with all the likely defections – to the Opposition – when in fact the faction that is the most wobbly is the Opposition.

ben-micah (1)Micah, for instance, he’s got nothing for his defection (and he’s not known for doing things out of the goodness of his heart) and what’s more they quite likely tricked him out of the leadership or deputy role and he wouldn’t be pleased about that. I’d say Micah is for sale to the highest bidder – except no one seems to be bidding.

20130910_Tue_HeadlinesAnd then, there’s Namah… who has been ‘making eyes’ at O’Neill for some time now. But the famous cuckold has been, so far, unsuccessful. However, O’Neill would only have to wink at him and he’d come running. He’s no stable member of this wraggle-taggle mob – a bit of a floozy really.

…and Kua – he’s been a bully in the past – See: http://www.pngecho.com/2016/05/05/so-you-want-kerenga-kua-as-the-next-pm-oh-please/ – and it seems he’s still at it.

5160696-3x2-940x627Wasn’t it humiliating to see Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc go to water when Kua reminded him, ominously, that he could be charged with contempt of court – a veiled threat, I thought. You could have carried the Speaker around in a bucket. I’m wondering what motivates this feisty little gnome-like creature other than enriching the Somares.

Then, lurking in the background, not really with them, not really against them, is the Governor of Oro, Gary Juffa.

Here’s your solution.

 I’m now going to suspend all disbelief in order to give you all what you say you want: that is the Opposition, the social media and the silent majority.

It is the Opposition’s position that this VONC was necessary because Peter O’Neill is ruining the country and needs to be removed to save PNG.   Their motivation is to save PNG from corruption and bad fiscal management.

Pay attention to this, because it’s vital.

How can that be the case when they’ve nominated someone like Don Polye to be alternative Prime Minister – just more of the same things they accuse O’Neill of and worse?

I have also demonstrated, here and at other times, that the main contenders for alternative Prime Minister in the Opposition are all tainted by the broad brush of corruption.

The Opposition would tell you that they were acting on behalf of the ‘silent majority’; that they’ve heard their plaintive cries (although I don’t know how when they’re silent) and are responding – a voice for the voiceless.

Equally, there is a certain demographic that uses the social media who claim to also be speaking for the ‘silent majority’. (The students’ did too – but let’s leave them out – this social grouping seems to be becoming over-represented).

We can therefore conclude that the Opposition and the social media, anti-government forces are speaking for this same voiceless demographic.

With me? Excellent.

The deputy (of most things)
The deputy (of most things)

If we scrutinize the rhetoric of this social media grouping and take heed of the many surveys they have carried out, the consensus is that this silent majority, want Gary Juffa as alternative Prime Minister. Unequivocally! (Oh and Basil as the Deputy – who else?)

Juffa, though, hasn’t got the numbers and the Governor understands this only too well – yes, but only because these supposed representatives of the ‘silent majority’ have given their vote to Polye when their supporters want Juffa.

Oh come on Don, why don’t you listen to the plaintive cries of your constituents? It’s easy stuff, step down, instruct the Opposition (which you claim to lead) to back Juffa.

This will reveal, if your aim is really as stated or whether this VONC is a cynical exercise to raid the state’s coffers. As for the social media and the anti-government forces, I’ve given you a tangible way to get what you want – go lobby – but be prepared to run when the sheepskins are shrugged off to reveal the hungry wolves.

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The Rejects’ Shop – aka: the Opposition

By PNG Echo

13699546_10153959384506865_1414274448_o (1)
The ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with Namah, significantly (?) in the second tier.

In most western democracies – certainly ones with a two-party system – the Opposition opposes the Government primarily on political ideology. That ideology provides the guiding principles for their policies.

In Papua New Guinea that has a 40-something-party (and goodness knows how many independents) system, the leading political ideology is self-serving pragmatism with a nod to expediency – so what exactly does the Opposition oppose?

The raison d’être

In the main, they are in Opposition because the Government doesn’t want them. In fact, the Opposition ranks (and they are meagre) consist of the rejected, swelled by the disaffected. And this is where the ‘alternative Prime Minister’ of Papua New Guinea will be sourced?

They’d all be still with the O’Neill Government if they had not either been unceremoniously dumped and/or O’Neill had not thwarted their ambitions, within the Government.

Many (and more, it seems, to come) have slunk into the Opposition ranks, tail between their legs, venting their spiteful spleen, like rejected lovers.

In fact, I’ve heard tell that the ultimate politically rejected lover is shuffling behind O’Neill, with his begging bowl, exhorting O’Neill to take him back. I’ve also heard tell that O’Neill is resolute in denying him.

The major players

Beware the Ides of AugustDon Polye:
Stripped of the Ministry of Finance, then the Treasury portfolio and then expelled from Government by O’Neill. Ordered by the Prime Minister to sit in the Opposition benches, after initially resisting, he finally complied – ousting Namah as Opposition Leader.  As leader of THE Party, Polye does not control his members. A large section of his Party stayed with government, including the Deputy Prime Minister – many defected to the Prime Minister’s party, PNC.

Belden Namah:
The ultimate cuckold. O’Neill’s coalition partner going into the 2012 elections, O’Neill found he did not need Namah – neither as far as numbers were concerned nor did he need the controversy and shame that Namah had brought to the high office when he was Deputy Prime Minister.  Eventually, all deserted Namah with the last being the perpetual deputy, Sam Basil – and now he’s gone too.

Kerenga Kua:
Former Attorney General – did he jump – or was he pushed? Certainly things were not going swimmingly for him in the government ranks. He never made it. Now he is the leader of the disgruntled (oh, and some resurrected and obscure political, one-man party.)

eight_col_Sam_BasilSam Basil:
Even the perpetual deputy whose fortunes rose and fell with Belden Namah has decided that Namah is too much of a liability and has resurrected the Pangu Party as its leader and even managed to get himself one follower in the guise of Little Willie Samb of Goilala.  To my knowledge though, he is still deputy of the opposition – but I wonder for how long now that the Opposition has swelled its number of wannabes.

In the comments, please feel free to add an Opposition member and elaborate how they have been rejected by government and why they are disgruntled.

PNG-Public-Enterprise-and-State-Investments-Minister-Ben-Micah.Which brings us to Ben Micah: Rumour has it that O’Neill would not give him the Deputy Prime Minister’s job and removed his portfolio. So welcome to the disgruntled, Ben. You’ll need to fight with Kua to have the title of ‘leader’ of that bloc but you certainly have the advantage in the weight stakes if not necessarily the political weight stakes. (BTW Ben, you forgot to take the Chans with you!)

Micah’s sins and indiscretions are legion. They are the stuff of dissertations and I have no time to go into them now. But you know what they are anyway – feel free to share in the comments. We’re all interested.

Slim pickings

IMG_1284
Symbolically, Micah leads Polye into the chamber

The Opposition’s rejoicing at Micah’s defection reminds me of the time when Namah, as then Leader of the Opposition, proudly announced his newest defection to the ranks – Paul Tiensten, that is, after he’d been convicted but before his sentence had been handed down. For all of you who missed it – Tiensten is in Bomana (I wonder if he’s still in the Opposition and whether he can vote?)

I do understand that this outlook for an alternative Prime Minister is depressingly bleak – but I have been fomenting an idea that could work. I’m going to sleep on it – I’ll get back to you soon. After all, we’ve only got seven days.

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