Clash of Statements at Commission of Inquiry into Motukea Wharf

The Commission of Inquiry into Motukea Wharf centres on the lawfulness and integrity of the sale and purchase of land at Motukea Wharf.

Motukea Wharf was purchased from Australian owned company Curtain Bros by the State of PNG for K1.1 billion, in order to relocate the port of Port Moresby. Of this total amount K725 million was payment for Curtain Bros’ land. An additional K400 million was reportedly paid to Curtain Bros in order to develop the land for a road and container terminal.

On Day 14 of the hearing a stunning submission was made by Mr Gabriel Michael, the nation’s Valuer General.

Mr Michael claims he produced a valuation of the land at Motukea Wharf which established the market price at K418 million. He alleges shortly after pressure was applied to alter this valuation. This pressure was allegedly applied by the Lands Secretary, Romilly Kila-Pat, and Justin McGann, General Manager at Curtain Bros. Afraid of losing his job, Mr Michael claims he altered the valuation to K722 million.

We have set the livestream video to the key part of Mr Michael’s testimony.

Following a series of delays, the Commission of Inquiry has resumed substantive hearings. This has brought former Lands Secretary Romilly Kila-Pat to the Commission to give evidence.

In his statement, Mr Pat  claims to have asked the Valuer General, Mr Michael, to ‘relook’ at the valuation. Pat read his statement aloud at the day 52 hearing.

A screen capture of this statement is also provided below.

So why would the Lands Secretary ask the Valuer General to give his valuation a ‘relook’?

We may learn in cross-examination later in the inquiry. But at the moment it remains a serious question in need of answering. Mr Pat claims he did not in his ‘recollection’ have a conversation with Curtain Bros or any other related party. The implication being he was not influenced by unsatisfied parties at Curtain Bros when making this request to the Valuer General.

So what exactly inspired Mr Pat to ask for this ‘relook’ is unclear.

But it is  apparent that Mr Kila-Pat’s statement contrasts with Mr Michael’s statement.

The Commission will through its hearings attempt to appreciate the facts with greater clarity in order to determine which accounts are credible and which are doubtful. It would be unhelpful at this stage to predict what the findings will be.

At the same time, a limitation Commission’s labour under is their terms of reference which bind them to look at a specific set of events, and a certain set of questions. It is unlikely, for example, the Commission will establish Mr Kila Pat’s credibility through broader examination of his professional track record, because that sits outside the Commissions terms of reference.

Yet this track record is germane when evaluating the relative credibility of those testifying. The following table provides a brief survey of the negative assessments of Kila-Pat made by oversight agencies.

Source Comment
SABL Commission of Inquiry We find that Mr. Romily Kila-Pat’s position reflects his own ignorance and competence. It also demonstrates the cause of the breakdown of standards within the DLPP during Mr. Kila-Pat’s lengthy watch over the SABL process.
Ombudsman Commission – Investigation into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning Rezoning, Leasing and Registering of the Land Title for Section 31 Allotments 03 Kimbe issued to Quinquing Trading Limited The Ombudsman Commission recommends that the Minister for Lands ensures that the Deputy Secretary for DLPP Mr Romilly Kila Pat is disciplined for deliberately supporting the Quinquing Trading Limited Commercial Lease Application to go to the Land Board contrary to the Secretary’s instruction and it being rejected by NPPB three times.
Public Accounts Committee On the 08th September 2005, the Department of Lands and Physical Planning issued a Licence Numbered 006/2005 SR to a company called Global Transfers Ltd to occupy the land and perform “feasibility studies”. The Licence was issued under the hand of Mr. Romilly Kila Pat. 53.4. A Licence can only issue in limited circumstances – and not over Customary Land. We understand that the licensee has taken an application to the Physical Planning Board to obtain Town Planning Approval – Customary Land cannot be so considered. 53.5. This issue of the Licence is unlawful and has been made during the tenure of the current Secretary for Lands. Appeals from the putative Landowners to the Department resulted in an agreement to review the Licence, but no apparent action has occurred since the Appeal was lodged in 2005. 53.6. Again, the Committee does not accept that change has occurred in the Department of Lands since 2002 and that there are still deep problems of incompetence, illegality and negligence within the Department.
Report of the Administrative Inquiry into the Land Transactions and Deals Involving the Five Portions of Land by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Public Enterprises and State Investments Looked at in terms of compulsory acquisition, whilst Mr Romilly Kila Pat, the then Secretary for Lands executed on 5 September 2014 a Notice of Compulsory Acquisition, there is no evidence of a Notice to Treat under S13 of the Land Act, or the publication of a Notice for Compulsory Acquisition in the National Gazette in accordance with S 12(1) of the Land Act 1996.
Ombudsman Commission, An Investigation into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning on Alleged Improper Licensing of Public Institutional Land Under Special Purpose to Solar Industries Limited for Commercial Purpose in Kimbe, West New Britain Province.



 On 17 November 2005 the Deputy Secretary (Corporate and Regulatory Services) for DLPP, Romilly Kila Pat, signed and issued Licenses Number 11 of 2005 (Island) and 12 of 2005 (Island) of Section 36 Allotments 1-6 and 21-26 to Solar Industries Limited to do feasibility study and Engineering Designs for the proposed business activities. Issuance of license to private individuals and organizations is a Ministerial responsibility. There is no document to show that Romilly Kila Pat and other senior officers in the DLPP had been delegated Ministerial responsibilities to issue licenses. Therefore Romilly Kila Pat had acted without any power to issue licenses to Solar Industries Limited. Also on 17 November 2005, the Deputy Secretary for Lands, Romilly Kila Pat, signed the Exemption Notice under Section 69(2) (d) of the Land Act 1996 exempting Section 36 Allotment 1-6 and 21-26 from advertisement for Public Tender. Exempting a Planning Permission Application from advertisement is a Ministerial responsibility and remains the prerogative of the Minister for Lands. There is no documentary evidence to proof that Romilly Kila Pat was delegated or sub-delegated the Ministerial responsibility to exempt Planning Permission Applications from advertisement. Therefore, Romilly Kila Pat acted without any power to exempt Solar Industries Limited’s Application from advertisement.
Kalem v Yumi Yet Trading [2016] PGNC 278; N6458 (9 September 2016) I reject the evidence of the Korin Tame, Eke Lama and Romilly Kila-Pat because of the clear errors and inconsistencies ..; I find that the conduct of the first, second and the fourth defendant [Romilly Kila Pat] amount to actual fraud and therefore the registration of the State Lease cannot stand.

In short Kila-Pat is a former senior civil servant whose tenure is marked by allegations of incompetence and illegality, levelled by the nation’s watchdogs.

Now Kila-Pat is accused of pressuring the Valuer-General to engage in dishonest conduct, which delivered a significant financial windfall to Curtain Bros.

Kila-Pat denies it.

Watch this space.