By JEFFREY ELAPA
AN investigation has been launched into the payment of K3.7 million in allowances to a group of people who visited Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in a Singapore hospital, The National reports.
The group consists of public servants serving in the Prime Minister’s office, officers from other government departments plus those who were not public servants.
Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc, when asked to comment yesterday, declined to say who was entitled to travelling allowances while accompanying the prime minister – who went on a medical leave.
But Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said everyone who received the allowances would be investigated.
He pointed out that Sir Michael was on sick leave and not on official government business.
Namah also questioned why the entire Prime Minister’s Department had to make the trip to Singapore.
The government-appointed Task Force Sweep team had been directed to investigate why allowances were paid to non-public servants and officials from other government departments.
“Some of these people who benefited from the K3.7 million of public funds during the hospitalisation of Sir Michael will be arrested soon,” Namah said.
More than 30 people, including family members of the Grand Chief, received allowances on the pretext of visiting the sick leader. Namah termed it as “daylight robbery” and “corruption of the highest order”.
According to Namah, Sir Michael and Lady Veronica received almost K700,000 as allowances, daughter Betha Somare and son Sana’s wife each received almost K200,000 and Sir Michael’s brother Paul Somare received more than K76,000.
The others allegedly paid allowances were Paul Bengo K85,000, Seki Karingai K192,000, Rodney Kamus K105,000, police Const John Keai K108,000, Richard Gogo K143,000, police Snr Const Ekonia Puki K71,000, police Const Rodney Eminoni K88,000, Tambon Tara K77,000, Margaret Elias K23,000, Hudson Ramatlap K23,000, Insp Simon Dugumi K26,000, Ipai Edward K48,000, Michael Ikau K26,000, Nora Solien K45,000, police First Const Peter Wesley K22,000, police Const Simon Guvi K23,000, Joan Vanariu K19,000, Chris Haiveta K10,000, Anna Abal K4,000 – plus four others who received less than K3,000 each.
Betha Somare, daughter of Sir Michael, said as employees of the prime minister’s office at the time, the public servants were entitled to the travel allowances.
She declined to comment further and referred other queries to the secretary at the Prime Minister’s Department.
She called on leaders to stop politicising the allowance issue because some of the payments were genuine.
She did not say if non-public servants, who accompanied the Grand Chief, were entitled to allowances.