Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Basil queries delay on finance inquiry report and actions

Deputy Leader of Opposition and Bulolo MP Sam Basil has called on the Government to explain the delay on what is the most-expensive and prolonged commission of inquiry – the one into the Department of Finance since 2007.

"Many months and many millions of kina went into the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance. And what have we got to show for it?" Basil said.

The Inquiry was looking into over 3000 entries recorded in the Finance Department's Cash Book Report of transactions of K300,000 and above from 1 January 2000 to 31 July 2006.

This was later expended.

"We cannot implement its recommendations. People who have committed crimes cannot even be charged. Money that should not have been paid cannot be recovered," a concerned Mr Basil said.

The Bulolo MP described as "puzzling" the fact that a successful court order was made to effectively "put a lock on that report" when millions (up to K10 million) was already spent to ensure that hearings and findings were recorded.

"Many people in this nation are no doubt suspicious about that order: how it came to be made, when it came to be made and where it came to be made," Basil added.

"But we, of the Opposition, respect the fact that a judge of the National Court chose to make such an order. The questions which must now be asked, given the many months which have elaspsed since that order was made, are (1) why has nothing been done about that order? and (2) when will something be done?"

The Deputy Opposition Leader added: "If the gag order was made as a temporary order by a National Court judge then the matter should have been taken before another judge with an application to set that order aside. Alternatively, the order of the National Court should have been the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court, coupled with a request to have the matter heard as a matter of urgency."

The opposition pointed out that the directions to follow-up falls within the duty statement or jurisdiction of the Minister for Justice and Attorney General Hon Sir Arnold Amet.

"This is an area for which the Attorney General is responsible. As a former Chief Justice, the learned lawyer, cannot use ignorance of the law and judicial process as an excuse," Basil said.

"If the Attorney General cannot entrust this instructions to the State Solicitor to try to get rid of this gag order because of potential conflict of interest arising from contents of the Commission of Inquiry Report, what's to stop Sir Arnold outsourcing the matter for a private law firm to do something about it as soon as possible?" He said.

"But the bottom line is: millions of taxpayers' money – supposed to be used for the benefit of the people – has been abused in questionable ways by those entrusted to ensure proper usage. These public servants – and their political masters – are all paid to do these jobs," Mr Basil said.

"If they failed and mishandled funds, they must face the consequences of their actions. The Commission of Inquiry cost the taxpayers another K10 million or so to hear, ascertain and determine its findings. The people cannot be double-denied justice because no one is attempting to free the report from the court gagging," Basil said.

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