William Duma and the Manu Manu Land Scandal: The Full Story
The Manu Manu land scandal rocked the nation back in 2017. In response to the public outcry an Administrative Inquiry was launched at a cost of K2 million to taxpayers.
While the inquiry report was tabled in Parliament on 13 April 2018, the public were denied copies of a report which they had paid for. Then, a month ago, it was leaked online.
PNGi is committed to documenting the reports key findings. Today we begin with William Duma and portion 406.
The facts are straight forward enough, and by any stretch shocking given the Police Commissioner’s decision that there is nothing to see here. There is.
Approx. K46.5 million has been taken from the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF), through a crooked land deal, denying long suffering soldiers serving this country much needed financial resources. The rank and file of our armed services should be outraged by what this investigation discloses.
On 30 July 2015 a state lease over portion 406 was acquired by Kurkuramb Estates Limited, ‘paying no more than application fees of K650’.
Portion 406 is a 847.25 hectare plot of land 75 kilometers west of Port Moresby along the Hiritano Highway. It was valued on 30 July 2015 at K99 per hectare or K84,420 in total.
At the time Lancron naval base in Port Moresby was relocating to portions 422 and 423, that were adjacent to portion 406. No mention is made of portion 406 in the relevant Defence Council decision (DCO 05/2015) made on 27 February 2015.
Only later, on 15 October 2015, is portion 406 identified for the relocation exercise in a letter from Dr Fabian Pok the Defence Minister.
On 3 November 2015 the Valuer General’s office conducts a valuation of portion 406. Its value evidently leapt 555 times to K55,000 per hectare or K46.6 million in total.
Let that sink in. In the space of three months, according to the government valuers, this rural landholding increased 555 times in value. The inquiry deemed this to be grossly excessive and explicit evidence of wrongdoing.
Put simply, 3 November 2015 was a day when Kurkuramb Estate’s sole shareholder learnt that their humble K84,420 asset, acquired for K650, was now worth K46.6 million.
But who is the mysterious owner of this land whose investment just rose 555 times in value over three months?
Kurkuramb Estates’ office address and postal address, were the home and postal address of William Duma who was Minister for Transport up until 11 January 2016, when he was made Minister for State Enterprises. Duma intimated to the inquiry that a rogue element used these addresses without his knowledge.
Kurkuramb’s sole shareholder and director, Christopher Polos, was said to be Duma’s brother-in-law.
Duma confirmed Polos was his brother-in-law.
Then realised he got matters wrong. Christopher Polos was in fact an individual living on Bougainville. His brother in law, Duma finally remembered, was in fact Kayboy Polos.
Easy mistake to make.
That’s ok, surely a close examination of the lands records would tell the public whether there was any foul play.
All of the records have gone missing from the Lands Department!
However, it was learnt that a contract of sale was reached on 11 December 2015. The Independent State of Papua New Guinea would pay K46.6 million on behalf of the PNGDF.
On 14 October 2016, state enterprise, Kumul Consolidated Holdings formally agreed to pay the vastly inflated sum on behalf of the PNGDF, in return for PNGDF land at Fairfax Harbour.
There was one problem with the deal struck. Kurkuramb Estates failed to affix its corporate seal to the Memorandum of Agreement.
Strangely, Kumul’s Managing Director did not alert Christopher Polos, Kurkuramb Estate’s sole shareholder and director. Instead he emailed the State Enterprises Minister, William Duma, noting that the seal needed to be brought in.
It was later provided and the money was paid over in two tranches, allegedly under pressure from the Minister.
A K650 investment was increased by 71,692 times to K46.6 million.
When Kumul’s Board demanded the payment be recovered for portion 406, given a litany of faults in the acquisition, the Minister William Duma intervened and on 25 January 2017 instructed Kumul’s legal team, Dentons Lawyers, to cease any action against Kurkuramb Estates.
In the end, Kumul paid a vastly inflated sum for portion 406, on behalf of the PNGDF.
The armed services were, in effect, forced to buy an inflated block of land. K45.5 million that should have gone to the PNGDF has instead been pocketed by those standing behind Kurkuramb – a fact that should not be lost on any member of the PNGDF when their allowances are not paid, or their accommodation is in disrepair.
These are the essential facts surrounding a land scandal police have claimed is totally above board. Yes Police Commissioner Gari Baki said, to paraphrase, move on folks nothing to see here!
The Administrative inquiry set up to examine the facts under the leadership of John Griffin QC, drew the exact opposite conclusion to the RPNGC’s high command.
While it did not have the power to subpoena records and witnesses, it was able to make one firm conclusion.
Criminality was at play. The only question it could not answer with 100% clarity, who are the defendants that should be in the dock.
Strap in, as PNGi takes you through the Manu Manu Inquiry report, that the government did not want you to see.
In January 2017 William Duma and Dr Fabian Pok, the Ministers for State Enterprises and Defence respectively, hit news headline.
They were accused of having engineered a fraudulent land deal to misappropriate a large sum of public moneys.
Both denied the charges.
Prime Minister O’Neill called for a Commission of Inquiry. But quickly recanted. Instead he launched an Administrative Inquiry led by an Australian QC, John Griffin. It could not subpoena (compel) witnesses or documents .
The inquiry began in March 2017. Griffin QC was told by the Lands Department ‘that the relevant files relating to the properties the subject of the Inquiry had disappeared’.
Griffin QC immediately detected “a rat”. He remarked: ‘The Administrative Inquiry took the view that that fact alone demonstrated that there had been considerable impropriety which almost certainly included financial inducements to public servants’.
Let’s stop and pause there.
- Considerable impropriety suggests somebody or somebodies were involved in serious illegal activity.
- This almost certainly includes bribery (i.e. inducements).
The inquiry was under no illusions they were investigating crooked land deals. The only question that had to be answered was, who were the protagonists behind these shonky transactions.
The Administrative Inquiry paid close attention to portion 406, in particular. ‘Portion 406 transaction was the one which involved by far the highest amount of compensation’, Griffin QC observes. He continues, ‘it was acquired by way of compulsory acquisition from Kurkuramb Estates Ltd, whose sole director and shareholder was one Christopher Polos’.
Mr Polos refused to cooperate with the Administrative Inquiry. The inquiry had no power to compel him to, or to investigate Kurkuramb’s internal records. These ‘were severely limiting features in the investigative capacity of the Administrative Inquiry’, Griffin QC claims.
It was almost certainly designed to be this way by the O’Neill Government, in order to give those named plausible deniability – in so doing it ensured there would be no fractures in the governing coalition.
Despite these limits the inquiry uncovered some extremely revealing facts about the acquisition of portion 406.
Situated 75km west of Port Moresby, portion 406 is a 847.25 hectare plot of land.
On 25 February 2009 the unimproved value of the land was assessed to be K30,000, ‘slightly more than K35 per hectare’.
From 2009 until 2014 the land was owned by M&M Investments Pty Ltd. M&M’s shareholders during this period were George Sariman and Moses Lakai
In 2014 the lease was forfeited by the Lands Department. George Sariman claims his company received no notice, as required under s122 of the Land Act 1996.
A state lease over portion 406 was then granted to Kurkuramb on 30 July 2015.
While the land records associated with portion 406 went ‘missing’, it was disclosed during the inquiry that the plot was valued at K84,420 on 30 July 2015. This represented K99 per hectare.
On 15 October 2015, Dr Fabian Pok wrote to Mr Luther Sipison, the Secretary for Department of Lands and Physical Planning. The letter states that portion 406 has been identified for the naval base relocation. The department was asked to initiate compulsory acquisition.
This was the first occasion in which the Administrative Inquiry found any record that portion 406 was needed for the relocation exercise. Defence Council decision DCO 05/2015 made on 27 February 2015 only mentions portions 422 and 423.
This late insertion by the Minister turned out to be an extremely “fortunate” turn of events for the land’s new owner, Kurkuramb.
Griffin QC observes:
The basis for the selection of Portion 406 is not clear. Its acquisition does not appear to have been endorsed by the Defence Council, and there is no information to suggest that its acquisition was ever supported by a feasibility study. Further, at Manu Manu the Defence already had 2331 hectares available, namely 2023 hectares on Portion 154, 138 hectares on Portion 422, and 170 hectares on Portion 423. Further, Portion 406 was well away from the sea.
The forfeiture order was gazetted on 3 December 2015.
The Administrative inquiry observes: ‘Dr Pok was a member of the Defence Council, and accordingly must have known that Portion 406 had not been approved by the Defence Council to be part of the new Defence site’.
In order to compensate Kurkuramb, the Value General’s office conducted a valuation of portion 406.
The Land Act sections 23 and 24 state when determining land value the subject of compulsory acquisition, consideration is to be given to the current market value only. The valuation cannot speculate on what increase in value the proposed public use may have on the land in the future.
A Certificate of Valuation was issued by the Valuer General over portion 406 on 3 November 2015. Based off an assessment produced by the Assistant Valuer General, Moses Kila, the land was valued at K46.6 million. This represented approx. K55,000 per hectare.
Just three months before its value was judged to be K99 per hectare.
The Administrative Inquiry concluded the valuation was grossly excessive. It concluded Kila had been bribed or threatened.
In support of this conclusion it noted that the Valuer General did not sign off on the valuation. This is required for any compulsory acquisition over K500,000. Mr Kila claimed: ‘The reason was that he did the valuation in a hurry. When asked why he was in a hurry, he said he was pressured by officers of the Defence Department’.
The Administrative Inquiry also noted that the closest comparable acquisition occurred in 2007. In this instance the land was valued at between K300-350 per hectare: ‘The Administrative Inquiry is not aware of any major alterations in value of agricultural land within driving distance of a major city that would justify the huge difference between the per hectare value determined in that case, and that determined in relation to the Manu Manu land’.
Even if the land, for example, by some stroke of luck in three months went from K99 to K500, the purchase price would be K423,625. A far cry from K46.6 million.
While the land was being valued, at a vastly inflated rate, discussions were taking place between the Defence Department, PNGDF, and Kumul Consolidated Holdings Limited through its Managing Director Garry Hersey, over how to fund the naval base relocation exercise.
Kumul Holdings is the statutory corporation responsible for managing the public’s non-mining and petroleum assets.
It was agreed Kumul Holdings would compensate the owners of portion 406 for the land that had been compulsorily acquired. In exchange, the PNGDF would arrange for the land at the existing naval base in Fairfax Harbour to be transferred to Kumul.
An Independent Committee later set up by Kumul concluded that the PNGDF did not actually own the land at the Lancron Naval base (Note: The Independent Committee was established on 20 January 2017 to investigate Hersey’s role in the Manu Manu transaction, its findings were reported on 12 April 2017).
The acquisition was finally executed on 11 December 2015.
‘By letter dated 26 February 2016 from the PNGDF to Mr Hersey, KCH [Kumul] was notified of the compulsory acquisition of Portion 406 for the amount of K46.6 million and was asked to finance the relocation on behalf of PNGDF in exchange for title to the Lancron Naval Base’, the inquiry observes.
The Independent Committee later set up by Kumul to investigate the purchase, claimed that the company’s Managing Director Garry Hersey failed to conduct due diligence and then misled the Board in order to bring about the purchase:
The Independent Committee thought that the evidence strongly suggested that there was a deliberate and calculated attempt on the part of Mr Hersey and certain senior KCH [Kumul] staff members to not only deceive and mislead the Board, including by failure to tender the Investment Committee Report to the Board, and failing to give full, frank and material disclosure of relevant facts and circumstances that were within Mr Hersey’ s direct knowledge. Instead, information was submitted to the Board in a rushed, piecemeal and selective way that effectively concealed the true nature of the entire Portion 406 transaction and did not disclose the unacceptable risks it posed to KCH’s interests.
The committee also observed: ‘The Board was induced to the belief that a State Lease for Lancron Naval Base [in Port Moresby] had been issued and was available for transfer to KCH [Kumul], which was not the case at all’.
Set against this alleged backdrop, on 14 October 2016 Kumul entered into an Memorandum of Agreement with Kurkuramb to pay K46.6 million for portion 406. Kumul’s Manager of Legal Services, Kari Tavari, informed the Independent Committee that this agreement was drafted without ‘any legal due diligence or proper Board approval’.
Revealingly Tavari claims ‘Mr [Garry] Hersey told her to take out the anti-corruption clause in the document’.
The Independent Committee concluded that ‘that Mr Hersey embarked on an unauthorised and intentional course of conduct to pay the K46.6 million to KEL’.
The agreement securing this major windfall for Kurkuramb was signed under Kumul Holdings common seal. Christopher Polos failed to bring Kurkuramb’s common seal to the signing (a common seal is an official stamp that signifies the agreement is an act and deed of the company concerned).
Garry Hersey, it is claimed, gave immediate instructions for the first tranche of money to be released to Kurkuramb even though the agreement had ‘not been properly executed by KEL [Kurkuramb]’ (i.e. there was no company seal, additionally the agreement was meant to be signed by the Chairman and Managing Director of Kumul Holdings, or two Directors – it was signed, in fact, by the Acting Corporate Secretary and Managing Director).
The first payment of K20 million went through on 14 October 2016.
An email from Kumul’s Corporate Secretary was forwarded by Garry Hersey to William Duma. It stated ‘Further to text William Funds gone but could they come on with the seal tomorrow please. Are you going to Hagen this weekend per chance’.
Duma responded ‘am in back in porn [sic] now, and will wait for you to return before I leave for Hagen over this weekend’.
In short, Kumul Holding’s Secretary informed William Duma that the funds had gone through to Kurkuramb, and additionally asked for Kurkuramb’s corporate seal to secure the Memorandum of Agreement.
This is a deal and a company, Duma claims no involvement in.
According to Kumul’s acting Corporate Secretary, Jayapal Jayaraj, Garry Hersey then instructed him to make the second payment of K26.6 million to Kurkuramb.
Jayaraj informed Hersey there was insufficient funds in the company’s general business trust account. The Administrative Inquiry notes: ‘Mr Hersey then instructed that Mr Duma had a dividend cheque from MVIL [Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited is a Kumul subsidiary], and to send someone to collect and bank the cheque and have it cleared that same day’.
Kumul’s Corporate Secretary later claimed in evidence:
Garry Hersey was saying he was under pressure from the Minister and wants the payment done at the earliest. He never mentioned the name of the minister. I guessed he might be referring to Minister William Duma … Because Garry Hersey kept on calling and mentioning pressure from the Minister, I responded in the email to tell the Minister the payment could be done next week.
On 23 December 2016 authorisation of a second payment to Kurkuramb was made in the amount of K26.6 million. At this stage Kumul had not received ‘any form of title over the Lancron Naval Base’.
But the matter does not end there. The Administrative Inquiry presents one final detail that is revealing:
The [Kumul Holdings’] Independent Committee received evidence to the effect that Mr Hersey issued a direction to relevant personnel for all electronic files relating to the Lancron Naval Base and Portion 406 to be deleted, and for all physical files in the possession of those parties to be handed to him. Some of the electronic files were saved by Ms Taunao onto an external hard drive. The Independent Committee considered that that suggested a deliberate attempt to destroy and conceal evidence.
In light of the numerous flaws in the portion 406 deal, Kumul Holding’s Board issued instructions to recover the two payments from Kurkuramb Limited.
William Duma, in response, summoned Kumul’s Corporate Secretary, Chief Financial Officer, and Board Secretary. It is claimed ‘the Minister said the Board had no authority to engage lawyers on the matter and should withdraw instructions’.
Minister Duma went so far as to email the legal representatives for Kumul, Dentons Lawyers, on 25 January 2017. The email states:
I do not normally as a Minister intervene in routine matters involving the boards and the management of entities I have Ministerial responsibilities over but I am forced to communicate with you directly as a result of a sensationalised article in the PNG Blog yesterday … The management of KCH have in their Brief to both myself and the KCH Board advised that the transaction in question is in order … As of today, you have no instructions to act on behalf of KCH, the Board and the management of KCH.
The exonerating brief mentioned in this email was produced, the Independent Committee claims, with the Minister’s own ‘personal input’.
In summary, Kumul Holdings paid K46.6 million for land that was worth in the realms of K100,000.
Then news of the scandal hit, courtesy of a post on PNG Blogs. The website implicated William Duma in the Kurkuramb sale.
Kurkuramb Estates Limited
Griffin QC observed that ‘there would plainly be a case of corruption against Mr Duma if it were the case that he controlled the affairs of Kurkuramb Estates Ltd’.
A number of facts are pointed to in the Administrative Inquiry report, which link William Duma to Kurkuramb Estates Limited.
For example, during the relevant period Mr Duma’s home address was the registered office address of Kurkuramb and Christopher Polos. In his evidence to the inquiry Mr Duma claimed: ‘He was not aware until January of this year , when he met Mr Paul Nerau, that his home address had even been registered as the address of the company, Kurkuramb Estates Limited’.
Mr Duma also told the inquiry that Kurkuramb used his postal address as the company’s registered postal address, without his knowledge.
In short, according to William Duma, Christopher Polos somehow, without his knowledge, discovered the Minister’s personal PO Box and address – then conspired to submit false corporate information to the Investment Promotion Authority for no known advantage or reason.
Christopher Polos is the second link between Kurkuramb and William Duma. A search conducted by PNGi could find no other company Polis is connected to, or any public footprint for Polos in the business world. Yet somehow he managed to single handedly pull off one of the most stunning commercial feats in PNG landed history.
The contention considered by the Administrative Inquiry is that Mr Polos, in fact, acted as a proxy for a much more prolific individual, the State Enterprises Minister, Mr William Duma.
It is alleged that the sole director and shareholder of Kurkuramb is the biological brother of Duma’s wife.
The inquiry reports: ‘On 30 August 2017, he was asked whether it was the case that Christopher Polos was the biological brother of his wife. Mr Duma answered: “Absolutely”’.
He added: ‘There is nothing wrong with having relatives and as far as I know this fellow wanted to develop that land … Everything was above board, even the process of compulsory acquisition’.
Then in a strange twist, on 29 September 2017 Duma informed the inquiry: ‘I have just found out that Christopher Polos — that is why I wanted to — I will be writing to you. I found out after my meeting with you, the last time I appeared before this tribunal, I found out that Christopher Polos is not my wife’s younger brother’.
According to Duma his wife’s youngest brother is in fact Kayboy Polos. Christopher, Duma claims, ‘was adopted by one of my wife’s aunties’.
The inquiry observed: ‘Mr Duma reaffirmed that he did not know Christopher Polos who, he said, lives in North Solomons’. Yet somehow Polos knew Duma’s personal PO Box and home address, then conspired to misuse it for no known advantage or reason.
In short, Duma maintains that an individual he does not know conspired to use his address to register a company, and then somehow obtained a leasehold over land shortly before it increased 555 times in value, after late in the day it was added to the naval relocation site by the Defence Minister, Fabian Pok.
This same individual’s company was then the fortunate recipient of an illicit attempt to vastly inflate the price paid for the land by Kumul Holdings, a payment that was evidently pushed for by Duma as State Enterprises Minister, and then shielded from civil litigation, again by Duma. Duma maintains these are all coincidences and in no way evidence a conspiracy to misappropriate K45.5 million from the state.
However, the administrative inquiry added: ‘Mr Duma agreed that he was asked whether he could find Mr Polos to bring along the seal for the execution of the Memorandum of Understanding. He said: “That is a matter that Polos and Garry should know. That has got nothing to do with me”’.
Duma, the inquiry, notes ‘denied that there was any conflict of interest on the ground that he was not involved in the decision-making process to pay the money to Kurkuramb’.
This contradicts the evidence reproduced in the inquiry report.
Griffin QC in his concluding statements noted that he lacked the powers to properly assess who was the owner of Kurkuramb. Nevertheless, it is observed in the inquiry report:
Mr Duma’s true relationship with the company Kurkuramb Estates Limited is a crucial area of investigation because Kurkuramb Estates Limited was the entity which, on the face of the documentation, was entitled to the sum of K46.6 million compensation by reason of the compulsory acquisition of Portion 406, of which it held a State Lease. Investigation needs to include investigation as to whether, contrary to the Minister’s claims, he controlled the affairs of Kurkuramb Estates Limited. The Administrative Inquiry was of the view that there would plainly be a case of corruption against Mr Duma, if contrary to his denials, he had control over the affairs of KEL.
Griffin QC further added with respect to Dr Fabian Pok, who pushed for the compulsory acquisition of portion 406: ‘If he was acting in the interests of another or others, including Kurkuramb Estates and himself, his actions of course would have been corrupt’.
A Previous 'Suspicious' Land Deal
The facts of Manu Manu echo on a larger scale a previous land transaction involving the State Enterprises Minister, William Duma, when he was Minister for Petroleum and Energy.
This lesser known deal centres on harbour front land that now forms part of the Paga Hill Estate spearheaded by the Iceland-Australian businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson.
On 27 March 2009 the Department of Lands issued a notice to show cause why leases over the land at Paga Hill should not be forfeited from its then owner Noko No. 96. This notice was posted to Noko No. 96.
Before forfeiture was publicly gazetted, a company fully owned by William Duma, Kopana Investments, submitted an application to acquire state leases over the subject land on 27 April 2009.
Forfeiture of the land was publicly gazetted several months later on 3 September 2009. It is unclear how Duma learnt this land may soon become available for lease.
On 14 September 2009 the Minister for Lands exempted the portions from public advertisement. On 19 September 2009 the Land Board recommended the lease be granted to Kopana Investments. On 25 November the relevant states leases were awarded to Kopana Investments.
The Supreme Court concluded there was an
exemption of the land from advertisement and granting of the leases to Kopana, a company owned and controlled by a person [Duma] who appears to have been a ministerial colleague of the Minister [Temu] in whose name these various decisions were made. When it is considered that this sequence of events occurred in less than eight months and that Kopana’s application for new leases was made well before the leases were forfeited from Noko, we agree with the primary judge that there would appear to be reasonable grounds for suspicion
At the time this land deal occurred, the Paga Hill Development Company Limited – the lead corporate vehicle for the Paga Hill Estate – was seeking approval to undertake a major property development on adjacent land. The development masterplan showed that the land acquired by Duma in 2009 would be needed for the luxury development.
This point was confirmed by a high level PHDC executive. They state that Kopana’s land holding at Paga Hill borders the proposed Paga Hill Estate development. Its incorporation in the project, the senior management team believes, is essential to the proposed K3 billion venture.
During June 2015, Kopana Investments and PHDC allegedly entered into a Cooperation Agreement. Under the agreement, Kopana Investments would release its land holding to the project, in return for net equity in the development, once completed
The PHDC executive contends the precise split of equity that will be awarded to Kopana Investments for its landed contribution to the property venture will be agreed at a later date, once the development is complete, and all liabilities met.
If the facts presented by the Supreme Court and the PHDC executive are accurate, it would appear William Duma through Kopana Investments acquired land forfeited from previous owners. Kopana applied for this land before the forfeiture had been publicly gazetted, raising questions over how Duma knew this land was available for acquisition.
At the time, it was in proximity to a major property development which was declared a project of national significance by the government.
The land was acquired by Duma’s company without a public tender. The Lands Minister instead exempted it from advertisement before granting the portions to his colleague, William Duma. Because of its proximity to a major development the value of this land was likely to increase significantly. In this case without the sleight of hand of a Valuer General official.
The facts of this case, as the Supreme Court note, raise serious suspicions. They also mimic some of the core features documented in the Manu Manu Administrative Inquiry.
Because the Administrative Inquiry was unable to established definitively that Duma was behind Kurkuramb, it is impossible yet to suggest there was is a pattern here. Were Duma found to be the true beneficial owner of Kurkuramb, however, that would certainly be the implication.
Kumul's Garry Hersey
Kumul Holdings, it was observed, launched an independent inquiry into the Manu Manu land deal. It focused on the conduct of Mr Hersey, Kumul’s Managing Director.
According to Griffin QC: ‘The Inquiry was informed that Mr Hersey had been suspended on full pay, following which he had been refused entry to Papua New Guinea’.
It is not clear if this is a deliberate ploy by the O’Neill government to prevent Hersey from giving evidence on the Manu Manu land deal.
Following its investigation the committee ‘considered that Mr Hersey had acted willfully and intentionally, and in concert with certain members of KCH [Kumul] management, to deliberately mislead the Board on a range of critical issues relating to the Portion 406 transaction … the payment of K46.6 million to KEL at the direction of Mr Hersey was both “grossly irresponsible and improper”’. The committee also stated that ‘the Minister [Duma] was linked to KEL [Kurkuramb] in some way at the time of the relevant transaction, and that Mr Hersey was well aware of this’.
As a result, the Independent Committee concluded that Hersey should be dismissed, and any entitlements be frozen while legal action is commenced against the Kumul Managing Director. It also asked that ‘the Board immediately refer the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities for further investigation with a view to determining whether criminal charges, including fraud, should be laid against persons involved in the Portion 406 transaction as well as possible prosecution for breaches of the Leadership Code’.
Mr Hersey was eventually suspended and terminated from his position by the NEC.
Hersey denies all allegations against him. The Administrative Inquiry did not submit an opinion on the matter. However, it was observed that owing to the tight timeframe permitted for investigation, the independent committee was unable to consider a subsequent written response from Hersey.
Therefore, Griffin QC encouraged caution over accepting the independent committee’s finding of fact, until further investigation is conducted into the allegations against Mr Hersey.
Griffin QC concluded the Administrative Inquiry, noting:
There are features of the transactions that make it obvious that manipulation and dishonesty were definitely involved. Features such as the fact that the Portion 406 purchase was not approved by the Defence Council and that there was no feasibility study supporting it, and that it appears to result in the Defence Department having far more land than it needs at Manu Manu, strongly support the proposition that the compulsory acquisition of land recently granted to Kurkuramb Estates Ltd was contrived. The fact that the valuation was so far in excess of the true value suggests that the valuation was fraudulently high. The fact that the Lands Department files disappeared strongly supports the proposition that there was corruption involved.
It is to be recalled that, in June 2015, Kurkuramb was granted Portion 406 paying no more than application fees of K650. Approximately three months later, the State commenced the process of compulsorily acquiring the interest and agreed to pay the company K46.6 million by way of compensation. Any conclusion that that occurred as a result of mere luck strains credulity. Then one goes back to the further fact that a prerequisite to the success of the transaction was apparent pressure on the government exerted by the Defence Department to acquire Portion 406 for the purposes of relocating military and naval installations in circumstances in which there was no qualified opinion to support the appropriateness of the land for that purpose.
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) in notable contrast ‘recommended that the matter had no merit for further investigations and that it be closed’.
Gary Baki declared allegations against all Ministers, including William Duma, were without merit.
The matter, as far as the RPNGC top brass are concerned, is considered closed.
It is clear that the RPNGC is now a complicit actor in this illicit enterprise. Senior command has no intention of upholding the law. Instead their priority is protecting the lawlessness.
This is perhaps the saddest note to this whole sorry saga, the very organisation entrusted to protect the public has sided with those looting the public wealth.
If those charged with upholding the law refused to do so, then the last line of defence left is the people.