Powerful allegations against Teachers Association officials

Papua New Guinea’s hard working and dedicated teachers, like our nurses and other health workers, deserve our undivided support and admiration given the conditions in which they have to work and the depravations they suffer. It is especially troubling therefore to have to report on serious allegations emanating from the PNG Teachers Association.

Serious allegations

In 2016, a National court case highlighted serious allegations of mismanagement, fraud and other possibly illegal activities within the industry body.

The court case arose after the Industrial Registrar, in May 2016, tried to suspend the Association’s General Secretary and appoint a caretaker administrator to investigate “allegations of abuse of office and gross misuse of funds” belonging to the Association.

The General Secretary, Ugwalubu Mowana, and Association President, Tommy Hecko, successfully challenged the suspension and appointment of the caretaker on the grounds the Industrial Registrar did not have those specific powers under the Industrial Organisations Act.

Although the Court did conclude the Registrar had acted in a way not authorised by the legislation, the judge expressed great sympathy for her motives.

“I can see where the First Respondent as the Industrial Registrar is coming from and why she has stepped in, she may have good intentions and acted in good faith to rescue the Industrial Organization and its financial members from unscrupulous executives accused of abusing the office and gross mismanagement of its funds. But it has exposed her to the allegation that she acted without or beyond her powers in taking those measures against the Appellants and left her in a precarious situation”. [p5]

The Registrar’s intervention, according to the court judgement, was a result of a petition received from financial members of the Association, who are all school teachers, with allegations that were “grave and warranted an investigation”.

As well as gross mismanagement of Association funds, the allegations included that Mowana had been charged by the police for sexual abusing a female staff member. It is not known if or how that police case was ever resolved.

The judge was also sympathetic to the desperation of the situation faced by the teachers and the Industrial Registrar given it was alleged the President and General Secretary were continuing in office despite their terms of office having expired and attempts by the members of the Association to remove them through fresh elections having been thwarted:

“It may even be a desperate case for her intervention when attempts by the financial members of the First Appellant to get the Second and Third Appellants to corporate [sic] with them had failed, holding of election of the executives to give the financial members opportunity to elect executives of their own choice have seemingly failed for one reason or another, that the Second and Third Appellants continued to be in office – and power even though it is alleged that their term of office had expired, all these justifying and warranting the intervention of the Industrial Registrar”. [p6]

While the decision of the National court is still under appeal, teachers who are members of the Association are still maintaining their allegations of abuse of office and financial mismanagement.

Members allege:

  • National President,Tommy Hecko, has remained in office since 2005 despite his term of office expiring after three years and he has never been re-elected.
  • The National General Secretary, Ugwalubu Mowana, has remained in his role despite his initial three-year employment contract having expired and there being no properly elected executive who could approve an extension
  • Despite not being the duly elected / employed officials, Hecko and Mowana have been allowed to sign agreements relating to teachers working conditions and entitlements by the Teaching Service Commission and the Department of Education, potentially undermining the legality of those agreements
  • The President and General Secretary have been deducting 2% from the members fortnightly salaries despite not being the duly elected and authorised office holders. They have not accounted for the use of these funds
  • The two officials have failed to represent the members interests adequately or at all in relation to serious issues affecting teachers well-being including leave fares, postings, teacher-pupil ratios, remote allowances and others
  • Since the death of the Associations Treasurer in 2011, the employed finance office, Hubert Manbari, has been elevated by the President to the office of Treasurer, a position which is supposed to be held by an elected representative of the members.
  • K20,000 a fortnight has been diverted from teachers subscriptions to a company operating in East New Britain
  • Family members of Hecko, Mowana and Manbari have been employed as officers of the Association

It is important to note, all of these are mere allegations and have never been proven, but some of these allegations are not new.

In January 2015, teachers in Western Highlands publicly raised the issue of the President illegally holding office since a failed election in 2009 –  – and in July 2016, teachers in Port Moresby rallied outside the PNG Teachers Association office calling for the removal of the General Secretary – 

Business relationships

PNGi has uncovered evidence showing that as well as their roles at the PNGTA, Tommy HECKO, Ugwalubu MOWANA and Hubert MANBARI are business partners.

Hecko and Mowana own TA Investments Ltd, registered in November 2014.

Four months earlier, in July 2014, Mimase Investment Ltd was registered. It was originally jointly owned by HECKO, MOWANA and Hubert MANBARI.

In April 2017, HECKO and MOWANA resigned from Mimase Investment, as ‘due to the imprisonment of the consultant the company was not able to operate on the intended purpose’. This left MANBARI as the sole owner.

Tommy HECKO is also the joint owner of GTL Management Consultants Limited, registered in August 2016, Global Trading Limited, registered in 1994, and Global Mineral Resources Ltd, registered in 2005.

More recently, in May 2017, Hubert MANBARI, Ugwalubu MOWANA and a Kanawi TAIAN, registered PNG Education & Workers Rights Limited as a new, jointly owned, company.