The Konebada Petroleum Park Authority – A ‘golden bowl’ for who?
PNG-NRI researchers recently raised concerns over the Lands Minister’s decision to place 23,000+ hectares of land – which includes substantial customary holdings – under the stewardship of the Konebada Petroleum Park Authority (KPPA).
They were right to.
Evidence extracted from internal company records, the Investment Promotion Authority corporate registry, and a Public Accounts Committee inquiry, point to a range of irregular transactions and governance weaknesses within the KPPA, that require immediate investigation.
This trail of evidence prompting concern begins in the 2006-2008 period, when KPPA business was conducted through a private, limited liability company.
It continues today.
Despite now being on a statutory footing, the KPPA continues to conduct business through private, limited liability companies. These companies are connected to foreign businessmen implicated in a number of notable state-corporate scandals, including the Paga Hill Estate development and the UBS loan affair.
We have also just discovered that KPPA’s Managing Director has abruptly ‘left employment without notice’.
* Dr Kristian Lasslett is Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences, Ulster University. He specialises in anti-corruption research and forensic methodologies.
Part III - One Final Twist
To summarise the key facts:
- The KPPA initially conducted its business through a private limited company, which suffered serious and sustained criticism from the Public Accounts Committee for its alleged, opaque spending, irregular transactions, illegal use of trust account moneys, and notable lack of impact.
- A new statutory body was set up in 2008, through the Konebada Petroleum Park Authority Act.
- The statutory authority still conducts its business through private limited companies, including Petroleum Park Holdings Limited and Pacific (PNG) Oil & Gas Limited.
- Through this corporate network, KPPA has developed close links with businessmen implicated in a range of state-corporate scandals.
- KPPA, through its senior management team, have disposed of share assets held in Pacific (PNG) Oil & Gas Limited. It is not clear from the documents submitted to the IPA, whether Ministerial approval was acquired for this sale or what sort of professional vetting was employed.
Given the historical track record of KPPA Limited, and those individuals connected to the new statutory authority – through Pacific (PNG) Oil & Gas Limited – PNGNRI researchers were right to raise the alarm.
Their diligence and bravery demonstrates the critical role researchers and public intellectuals can play in keeping government and business to account in PNG.
Evidence to date suggests the initial findings of the Public Accounts Committee have gone largely unheeded. This again is a timely reminder that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) remains unactioned.
PNG has no substantive, independent body to thoroughly investigate irregular conduct, and known governance weak-points – even though the former Supreme Court Judge appointed to head the interim ICAC has declared his willingness to begin work at the earliest available opportunity. As a result of this inaction, the public is largely reliant on the executive to police itself.
Given the hostile response of the Minister for Lands & Physical Planning to the issues raised by PNGNRI researchers, there is little evidence to suggest that the executive branch is motivated to respond judiciously when such governance concerns are raised by reputable bodies.