Paga Hill – Koim’s complicity

By PNG Echo

Paga Hill residents in the rubble that was their homes
Paga Hill residents in the rubble that was their homes

Who can forget the mayhem and the abject misery as the bulldozers rolled onto Paga Hill and razed the houses and shelters of a long-established community – albeit a settlement.

Women were screaming, men were shouting but to no avail.

The police had been deployed to keep them in line; to keep the way clear for the bulldozing contractors to ply their heartless trade.

I remember a valiant Dame Carol Kidu standing in front of bulldozers trying to stop them only to be manhandled out of the way by the police. Her standing in the community meant nothing. These men had their orders and come hell or high water, they were going to carry them out.

Dame carol valiantly tries to get through the police cordon.
Dame carol valiantly tries to get through the human cordon.

This land now belonged to a foreign developer – and he had gotten ample assistance to stake his questionable claim, seemingly from all quarters – including some that will surprise you.

For Task-Force Sweep, under the direction of Sam Koim, had been arguably in a position to stop the purchase of the land by this foreign investor – but instead, they tacitly endorsed it.

International scrutiny.

It has been exactly a year (to the day) that I published the details of 57-page report of Dr Kristian Lasslett from the International State Crime Initiative see article here on the subject of Paga Hill.

In the report, Lasslett made a scathing attack on Task Force Sweep and Sam Koim saying that their assessment (which exonerated the developer – although other inquiries had not), had errors that were “seismic” and “can’t be put down to mere ignorance or inexperience.” Clearly he was suggesting corruption.

But in a new document to hand, he goes further.

In a letter from the International State Crime Initiative in November 2015 to the National Executive Council, Dr Lasslett says that Mr Fridrikssen (the proposed developer of Paga Hill) told his colleagues during an interview that “friends” inside Task Force Sweep had tipped him off to their investigation.

ist-page-letter-to-nec-16-november-2015letter-to-nec-16-november-2015It seems to me that Fridrikssen needn’t have worried because, to sum up Dr Lasslett’s expert opinion formed as the result of the agency’s thorough investigation:  Task Force Sweep’s investigation of the matter was at best, incompetent and at worst (and the indications are there) corrupt.

He goes on to warn of the

unsuitability of current Task Force Sweep management for any leadership position within the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption.

To my knowledge, the NEC has taken no action on this matter although I’m sure the findings of Dr Laslett’s extensive report would be made readily available to them.

The Paga Hill development is in partnership with the government of PNG, I’m told

The Hollie Fifer documentary on the Paga Hill development.
The Hollie Fifer documentary

The issue of Paga Hill has drawn much international attention, including the production of a documentary The Opposition which is itself steeped in all sorts of controversy itself read here

It could have been headed off at the pass, had Sam Koim been doing his job

So the big question is: Was Sam Koim merely incompetent or worse?  In view of the inaction on the Somare case, is he a serial offender – who  has danced to the tune of whoever played the prettiest music?

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Task Force Sweep’s integrity compromised.

By PNG Echo

Forced evictions at Paga Hill to make way for developer exonerated for wrongdoing by Task Force Sweep
Forced evictions at Paga Hill to make way for developer exonerated for wrongdoing by Task Force Sweep

The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) has raised serious questions about the integrity of anti-corruption agency, Task Force Sweep (TFS) and its Chairman, Sam Koim, after, TFS exonerated expatriate businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson and his companies and associates who are the developers of the controversial Paga Hill estate.

In a press statement accompanying a 57-page report released today, Dr Kristian Laslett, who heads ISCI’s Papua New Guinea Research, claims that errors in the Task Force Sweep assessment are “seismic” and “can’t be put down to mere ignorance or inexperience.”

In October 2012, ISCI lodged a complaint with Task Force Sweep containing serious allegations about the developer. Nevertheless, Dr Laslett writes:

Sweep failed to make any substantive response for 19 months then during June and July of 2014 Mr Fridriksson personally petitioned Task-Force Sweep to ‘correct’ Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General’s Office findings.

Four months later Sweep released a ten page case-assessment exonerating Mr Fridriksson and certain associated corporate entities.

The assessment contains “startling errors of fact, law and method,” claims the ISCI who goes on further to accuse Task Force Sweep of entirely ignoring its own basic practice and procedure, notwithstanding that “Task-Force Sweep is highly literate in investigative procedure and the law.”

The ISCI report highlights a “lack of rigour” in the case-assessment of TFS which it says

  • Is tainted by irregular practices
  • Misrepresented the Public Finances (Management) Act
  • Failed to consider the question of criminal liability
  • jeopardized whistleblowers.

ISCI is calling on the government of Papua New Guinea to launch an arms-length, independent probe into Task-Force Sweep’s investigation of Mr Fridriksson and other associated entities.

ISCI suggests that any uncovering of systemic failures within Task Force Sweep should lead to a broader evaluation of Task Force Sweep’s casework, managerial processes and financial accounting practices.

The ISCI recommends that the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity.

Task Force Sweep Chairman - not yet responded
Task Force Sweep Chairman – not yet responded

Task Force Sweep Chairman, Sam Koim, has been contacted to give his response to the report but although having read the messages has, so far, failed to respond. PNG Echo will publish his response should it arrive and whenever it arrives.

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