Eight years of trust accounts with untraceable billions


The Governor of the Bank of PNG Mr Loi Bakani’s comment yesterday through the media regarding the reckless investments made by the Somare government by placing K5 billion of the people’s money into trust accounts held by the commercial banks is uncalled for.

The K5b belongs to the 6.5 million people of Papua New Guinea and any government that decides to play around with that kind of money to enrich the commercial banking system can be termed as a very bad investment deliberately executed for dubious reasons only known to them and their cohorts.

Not only that, but by placing billions of kina into hundreds of different trust accounts in the commercial banks also makes it untraceable, leaving funds vulnerable to theft and misappropriation because the process bypasses strict government procedures, guidelines and financial scrutiny.

We have seen the NADP, DSIP, RESI and other funds kept in trust accounts outside the Bank of PNG system and disbursed through hand written cheques often signed by ministers, finance secretaries or their appointees.

In 2004, 2005 and then again in 2008, Public Accounts Committee has repeatedly ordered Finance Department and Finance & Treasury Ministry to close down those hundreds of trust accounts held at the commercial banks.

The report explained precisely what the current Bank of PNG Governor has indicated including the concerns raised by his predecessor, Mr Wilson Kamit.

The order was ignored because they all think that they are above the law while continuing to open new trust accounts and closing down accounts with depleted funds.

At this point in time, there will be no way the ordinary grassroots people of Papua New Guinea will know about the billions that have been parked in those trust accounts, as by now all may have been spent.

It is strongly believed that more than half of those funds have been and will be stolen through misappropriation or theft.

The Somare regime commenced office after the 2002 national elections and two years on, the PAC delivered its report for the Financial Year 2004.

The committee reported that trust accounts had failed to ensure the proper and lawful handling of public monies, accountability by the trust account trustees and responsible officers.

By 2004 there were no improvements, and the auditor general could not audit the trust accounts due to lack of records or accounts for individual accounts.

The report also indicated that there was widespread and significant misconduct, and misappropriation by trustees including the Department of Finance.

Trustees continued to breach their duties and obligations with no fear of detection and punishments.

By that report alone I can assume that the agencies responsible to detect and punish are non-functional even to this day.

There was no register of trustees, accounts, bank accounts, trust instruments or monies held in trust accounts.

Neither the committee nor the government know or can ascertain the number of trust accounts, the amount of money in them, the true balance of trust accounts, the identity of trustees, the terms of trust instruments or any other incident of trusts with daily abuse and mishandled with regular overdraws.

The 2004 report was repeated again in 2005, and then worse still in 2008 and keeps on getting worse every year.

The windfall gains from the mineral sector pouring into those trust accounts - a good K10-K15b - may have been transacted through those trust accounts without the knowledge of all concerned agencies and the public.

Those monies have definitely been stolen as indicated by the PAC report.

For how long will we all keep on watching those legalised white collar criminals stealing from the public purse?

Something must be done now!

The Ombudsman Commission and the Auditor General’s office are deliberately underfunded and have no capacity to audit or conduct investigations.

Therefore, the public cannot count on these institutions; leaving the big question of what shall we all do now?

Do we just keep on watching these wild animals in sheep’s skin stealing our monies under our nose?

The recent appointment of the current finance Minister Hon. Peter O’Neil, as we all know, has broken the protocol and procedures of the political coalition parties from which he has two party MPs in government but was rewarded with a very powerful finance ministry.

That alone can leave us all to wonder if his predecessor Patrick Pruaitch - now under Leadership Tribunal - has purposely placed him there to protect something.

All monies in those trust accounts are rightfully owned by the 6.5m people of this nation and they must now raise up and question those in power as to why, since 2002 up until now, there is no accountability in all those missing billions from the trust accounts as those years reflects the regime’s time in power to this present day.

I believe that the only way to fix this problem is to have this eight-year old regime changed by that we can see proper investigations into all trust accounts.

Members of parliament and public servants who stole must be held responsible by the laws of this land.

Some laws needs to be changed including maximum penalty by execution for trustees who steal public monies amounting to more than K1m, and life imprisonment for stealing public funds amounting to no more than K500,000.00.

This regime must be stopped now as billions of kina are continuously missing from the trust accounts.

If the new finance minister Peter O’Neil is keeping a tight lid on this issue then we must all be suspicious of him at all costs