Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prime minister justifies his 1994-97 returns



PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare yesterday said he has never had any other salary than his parliamentary salary ever since he entered parliament in 1968, The National reports.

He told the leadership tribunal investigating him that each year he had compiled his annual returns himself and denied failing to submit his annual returns of 1994 and 1995 to the Ombudsman Commission as claimed by the Ombudsman Commission.

Sir Michael maintained that he submitted all his returns from 1994 to 1997.

“I have always filled my annual statements every year all by myself. I know for a fact that I have fulfilled my obligations to fill my annual returns and submitted them to the Ombudsman Commission,” he said when cross-examined by the prosecuting lawyer, Pondros Kaluwin.

Sir Michael also maintained that he never received any income from his only business, a plantation he owned in Wewak.

“I have been living on a parliamentary salary from 1968 up until today; I do not have any other extra salary for any other businesses except for transport and travel allowances which are parliamentary benefits.”

He maintained all throughout the cross-examination that he had submitted all his returns.

However, Sir Michael said he fell behind in submitting his returns when he moved offices from being prime minister to being in the opposition and then having to move from Port Moresby to Wewak to be East Sepik governor.

The tribunal heard this was when he engaged family friend and accountant Glenn Blake to assist him with his overdue 1997-98 and 1998-99 annual returns.

The request was made in 2000, he added.

“If you indeed submitted the 1994 to 1997 statements of returns, then they would then be in the Ombudsman Commission’s file, is that right?” was Kaluwin’s final question to the PM, who said: “Yes, that is correct.”

Blake, who took the witness stand soon after, said he had filled out the OC’s required annual returns forms following the way previous forms had been filled up.

Asked if that was the first time he had filled these forms, he said “yes”.

Asked why he had not stated “nil” or “not applicable” where there was no required information, leaving blanks on the forms, Blake said he did not think that was required of him.

He added that when he left them blank, he had thought that they meant that there was no information for him to fill out on that space.

These included the parliamentary salary figures of the prime minister which, Blake insisted, he had great difficulties obtaining despite numerous attempts.

The tribunal continues today.



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