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Investigation Task Force Sweep was established in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on 12 August 2011, following a resolution by the National Executive Council (NEC). The initiative was spearheaded by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill as part of his well-publicised anti-corruption drive.[1]

The mandate of Task Force Sweep was initially to investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, but the scope was expanded to include investigating allegations of corruption in a number of other government departments and their officials.[2]

Task Force Sweep is currently chaired by Sam Koim, the Principal Legal Officer at the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. The investigations are led by the Police Department's Fraud and Anti-Corruption Unit and Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU). The team is composed of senior members of the Police Force, Public Prosecutor's Office, Internal Revenue Commission, the Ombudsman Commission, the Auditor General's Office, the Justice Department, Treasury and Provincial and Local Level Government. Due to its composition, Task Force Sweep has the power to investigate, prosecute and recover the proceeds of crime.[3]

Investigations

The primary matter for investigation by Task Force Sweep was with respect to monies appropriated through the Development Budget from 2009 to 2011, and in particular the PGK125 million intended for the Kokopo Community Projects and a PGK10 million sum that was disbursed to Kokopo businessman Eremas Wartoto.

In October 2012, Sam Koim concluded that almost half of PNG's PGK7.6 billion development budget for the period 2009 to 2011, had been lost through corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement. According to Koim, "We have uncovered a lot of instances where there was no recourse to budget and people were spending money left, right and centre, squandering funds and using them for private purposes".[4]

The Task Force created a watch list of 33 prominent individuals and has asked the national airline Air Niugini to monitor the movements of these individuals. Since the creation of this list in September 2011, a number of individuals named on it have been arrested, including the politician Paul Tiensten and former Acting Secretary of the Department of National Planning, Ruby Zarriga.[5]

According to a statement issued by Koim in November 2012, Task Force Sweep has registered 174 complaints about corruption, since its inception. Of these, 52 cases have been investigated.[6]

Arrests

Task Force Sweep has made 40 arrests since it was established in 2011:[7]

Current Investigations

Task Force Sweep is currently investigating allegations against former Prime Minister Michael Somare and his wife, Lady Veronica Somare, of misappropriation of public funds. The allegations relate to payments of PGK3.7 million paid to public and non-public officials during the hospitalisation of Somare.[25] Many arrests are expected in the course of this investigation, including Somare's daughter Bertha and his personal assistant Seke Ua Karingal. Somare's brother, Paul, is also believed to have been involved, along with Richard Gogo, Constable John Keai and Rodney Kamus, Somare's personal aide.[26]

In December 2011, Sam Koim announced that Task Force Sweep had uncovered a number of "syndicates" in PNG that had colluded to misappropriate large sums of public funds, which had been channelled out of the country. Sam Koim referred to Australia as "another Cayman Islands" for allowing perpetrators to launder their proceeds of crime.[14]

At the end of 2011, Task Force Sweep was given additional funds of US$1.4 million to expand the scope of their work.[27] They are reportedly due to investigate the Taiwan diplomatic scandal, which saw a naturalised Singaporean citizen jailed in Taiwan for his part in a cash-for-diplomacy scandal in November 2011. Wu Shih-tsa reportedly embezzled US$30 million worth of diplomatic funds in an exchange with the PNG government who was hoping to forge diplomatic ties with the government of Taiwan.[28]

Criticisms of Task Force Sweep

In January 2012, former Prime Minister Michael Somare criticised Task Force Sweep for being a tool for officials to exercise political vendettas.[29]

In October 2011, Paul Tiensten, the former National Planning Minister applied for a Judicial Review of the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) to establish Task Force Sweep in order to investigate allegations of corruptions at the National Planning and Monitoring Department.[30] Tiensten's application was rejected, with costs by the NEC.

Conclusion of Investigation

Sam Koim submitted Task Force Sweep's final investigation report to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill in May 2012, on the completion of Task Force Sweep's investigation into corruption and mismanagement in the public sector. The report stated that the level of corruption in Papua New Guinea had "migrated from a sporadic to a systematic and now an institutionalised form of corruption", describing Papua New Guinea as a "mobtocracy".[7][31]

According to Task Force Sweep, PGK52 million has been recovered, and hopes to recover almost double that figure by the end of 2012. The report states that the balance will come from PNG Central Bank freezing PGK55 million in National Capital Ltd's bank accounts, (the issuing agent for PGK125 million of Treasury Bills for the development of projects in Kokopo which was never authorised) to be paid back to the state.[32] Koim said 20 politicians will be referred to the ombudsman commission for further investigation, 24 public servants had been suspended for "facilitating or benefiting from corruption" and 10 lawyers will be referred to the PNG law society for investigation. In addition, a warrant has been prepared for Jeffery Nape, Speaker of the National Parliament, although has not been served.[33]

See also

References

  1. ^ National Court of Papua New Guinea (14 October 2011). "Tiensten v Koim [2011] PGNC 127; N4420". National Court of Papua New Guinea.
  2. ^ Post Courier (3 November 2011). "Maludu arrested and charged". Post Courier.
  3. ^ Post Courier (22 August 2011). "Probe team begin investigations". Post Courier.
  4. ^ Eoin Blackwell (8 October 2012). "PNG people lose billions to corruption". Herald Sun.
  5. ^ APP (1 December 2011). "PNG corruption force creates watch list". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  6. ^ AAP (25 November 2012). "Australian man charged with fraud in PNG". The Australian.
  7. ^ a b Liam Fox (11 May 2012). "Corrupt 'mobocracy' undermining PNG democracy". 612 ABC Brisbane.
  8. ^ JACOB POK (31 August 2011). "Wartoto's bail raises concern". Malum Nalu.
  9. ^ a b The National (3 January 2012). "Sweep team arrests 2 more". The National.
  10. ^ Post Courier (4 January 2012). "Somare's come under probe". Islands Business.
  11. ^ TODAGIA KELOLA (19 September 2011). "Former MP arrested". Post Courier.
  12. ^ The National (7 November 2011). "Komo-Margarima treasurer charged with stealing K2mil". The National.
  13. ^ SAMUEL RAITANO (17 November 2001). "Tiensten faces three charges". Malum Nalu.
  14. ^ a b JEFFREY ELAPA (6 December 2011). "Sweep 'uncovers' syndicates". Malum Nalu.
  15. ^ Todagia Kelola (2 November 2001). "FORMER PNG CABINET MINISTER CHARGED WITH FRAUD". PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT.
  16. ^ Liam Fox (17 January 2012). "Australian held in PNG on corruption charges". ABC Sydney.
  17. ^ Isaac Nicholas (1 February 2012). "MP denies knowledge of K4.3 million fraud". Malum Nalu.
  18. ^ Todagia Kelola (3 September 2012). "Task Force Sweep make more arrests". Post Courier.
  19. ^ Zachery Per (18 September 2012). "Former PNG Speaker Jeffery Nape Arrested". Pacific Islands Report.
  20. ^ Grace Tiden (3 October 2012). "Former PNG Official Arrested For Misappropriating Funds". Pacific Islands Report.
  21. ^ Radio Australia (3 October 2012). "Former PNG bureaucrat charged with corruption". Radio Australia.
  22. ^ AAP (25 November 2012). "Australian man charged with fraud in PNG". The Australian.
  23. ^ EMTV (22 November 2012). "AUSTRALIAN ARRESTED FOR DEFRAUDING STATES K1 MILLION". EMTV.
  24. ^ EMTV (21 December 2012). "TASK FORCE SWEEP MAKE ANOTHER ARREST". EMTV.
  25. ^ Jeffrey Elapa (5 January 2012). "K3.7m Singapore 'allowances' probed". PNG Exposed Blog.
  26. ^ Post Courier (3 January 2012). "PNG CORRUPTION TASK FORCE INVESTIGATES SOMARE". PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT.
  27. ^ Radio New Zealand International (27 December 2011). "PNG INCREASES FUNDING FOR CORRUPTION TASK FORCE". PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT.
  28. ^ AsiaOne (15 November 2011). "Singaporean jailed in Taiwan cash-for-diplomacy scandal". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011.
  29. ^ PORENI UMAU (5 January 2012). "Task force a tool for politicians". Post Courier.
  30. ^ National Court of Papua New Guinea (14 October 2011). "Tienstein v Koim [2011] PGNC 146; N4420". National Court of Papua New Guinea.
  31. ^ Liam Fox (11 May 2012). "Corrupt 'mobocracy' undermining PNG democracy". ABC Brisbane.
  32. ^ Henry Yamo (27 May 2012). "PNG state recovers K52m in corruption probe – more to come". Pacific Scoop.
  33. ^ Eoin Blackwell (20 May 2012). "PNG a corrupt 'Mobocracy' says Taskforce Sweep". PNGExposed Blog.