By JEFFREY ELAPA
THE National Executive Council has appointed a team of qualified and professional personnel to investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, The National reports.
It will also investigate the controversial K125 million Nasfund Kokopo infrastructure fund.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said yesterday the investigating team would be led by Sam Koim, a principal lawyer at the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
"I would like to inform the people of Papua New Guinea that my government is serious about fighting corruption in the country," O'Neill said.
"As you are aware, there are allegations of massive corruption in the department.
"We cannot sweep this under the carpet.
"We have to look into this, expose the rot, and punish the perpetrators.
"We have chosen this option instead of a commission of inquiry, which would be time-consuming, very expensive and most importantly its findings will not be binding until it is endorsed by parliament.
"Another important factor that defeated the purpose of the commission of inquiry has been that the people who investigated the matter would not have the powers to prosecute.
"We are aware that some of commission of inquiry reports had been restrained by the courts from being published and implemented.
"We have appointed a dedicated and professional team of Papua New Guineans to undertake this investigation.
"They are a dedicated team of serving public servants who we have confidence in to deliver a result as soon as possible.
"Papua New Guineans want answers and I'm confident this team will deliver them," O'Neill said.
He said the government had drawn the team of investigators from the National Anti-Corruption Alliance (NACA), the attorney-general's office, a member from the national planning, and other agencies which had established an understanding by way of a memorandum of understanding to work together in the fight against corruption.
He said the team members had investigatory and prosecution powers under their respective laws that would enable them to investigate, prosecute and recoup public funds, where appropriate.
He said the team members would carry out their legal duties but under a special arrangement with the NEC's endorsement.
O'Neill said the terms of reference would not be limited to 2011 but would include the 2009 and 2010 development budgets.
"This is not a political witch-hunt. My government is simply empowering and giving the political will to address very pressing issues affecting good governance and accountability, which the previous government condoned and ignored.
"On top of the list are the K125 million Kokopo infrastructure treasury bill and the K10 million given to a Kokopo businessman.
"The team will get to the bottom of this rot and whoever is implicated, including myself, if I am implicated, will be brought to justice under the one and only rule of law in this country.
"I call on all state agencies, corporate citizens, including banks and the public to help this investigation team.
"You have a duty to contribute towards fighting corruption."
He said the team had three months to carry out their work and report back to cabinet.
"The team will advise the public of the administrative arrangements soon on the conduct of the investigation."