Case 6.1 – Department of Finance Commission of Inquiry

Case 6.1 – Department of Finance Commission of Inquiry

Reports of widespread corruption and mismanagement of millions of Kina at the Department of Finance warranted the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in August 2006. But it began its work in May 2008 and handed over its final report to Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in October 2009 (Commission of Inquiry, 2013).

However, in March 2010 a court injunction obtained by lawyer Paul Paraka and former solicitor general Zacchary Gelu prevented the publication and implementation of the inquiry’s findings until November 29, 2013 when the injunction was lifted. The inquiry implicated lawyers, senior bureaucrats and businessmen and recommended their criminal prosecution. Despite the lifting of the injunction on November 29, 2013 there were no attempts by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

But on June 18, 2016 Prime Minister Peter O’Neill assured the public that the recommendations of the inquiry will be fully implemented in the New Year 2017 (EMTV, 2016). At the time of writing, close to 5 months into the New Year and the Government is yet to update the public on the progress it is making to implement the recommendations.

Update as of 2018

Reports of widespread corruption and mismanagement of millions of Kina at the Department of Finance warranted the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in August 2006. However, the Commission began its work in May 2008 and handed over its final report to Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in October 2009 (Commission of Inquiry, 2013). The Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare then tabled the Report in the National Parliament in March 2010, a motion was put by the Hon Paul Tiensten MP “That the report and its recommendations be adopted”, and was agreed to by the Parliament (Gelu v Sheehan [2013] PGNC 235; N5498).

However, in that same month in 2010, the National Court granted an interim injunction obtained by lawyer Paul Paraka and former Solicitor General Zacchary Gelu to prevent the publication and implementation of the inquiry’s findings pending the determination of a leave application by Mr Paraka and Mr Gelu for the judicial review of   certain statutory authorities made under the Commission of Inquiry Act (Ch 31) (Court Order-Finance Inquiry). In December 2013, the application for leave was refused by the National Court and as a result, the interim order was discharged (Gelu v Sheehan [2013] PGNC 235; N5498).

The inquiry implicated lawyers, senior bureaucrats and businessmen and recommended their criminal prosecution. Despite the lifting of the injunction on December 1, 2013 there were no attempts by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

On 10 December 2018, all 27 charges of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering against lawyer Paul Paraka were dropped by the Committal Court. Senior magistrate Mekeo Gauli ruled that the criminal charges laid against Paul Paraka (principal of Paraka Lawyers) by the fraud squad (formerly known as the task force sweep team) was an abuse of the court processes (Post Courier, 2018). He said that the charges were laid by the same taskforce sweep team that was abolished by the police commissioner through the operation of NEC Decision No.191 of 2014, only one month prior (Post Courier, 2018). “This meant that the taskforce sweep team had no jurisdiction to lay the charges at the material time, which rendered the act an abuse of the formal court processes” (Post Courier, 2018). Furthermore, Mr Gauli said that the question of legality of payments was cleared out before the charges were laid (Post Courier, 2018).

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