GOVERNMENT inaction in dealing with the poor state of affairs at the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) has resulted in the arrest and charging of a highly respected senior banker Aho Baliki last Thursday by Boroko police on allegations of fraud, The National reports.
Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie expressed surprise over Baliki's arrest and said he was in the same aircraft with Baliki to Goroka last Thursday.
He said he would seek an explanation today on what was going on.
Baliki's arrest has angered the president of the NMAG board of trustees Julius Violaris, who had been working with Baliki to protect the institution's funds and all its assets from theft and maladministration.
Baliki, 56, of Okiufa village, in Goroka, Eastern Highlands, is BSP's paramount banking general manager.
Police alleged that Baliki conspired with three board of trustees members to defraud the museum by fraudulently debiting K149,400.97 and crediting it to several accounts.
NCD metropolitan commander Supt Joseph Tondop said the three board of trustee members had been summoned to be at the Boroko police station today for questioning.
Baliki's arrest came after police acted on a complaint lodged by museum director and chief executive officer Meck Kuk of the unauthorised transfer of funds from the museum accounts by its board of trustees.
Violaris last Friday wrote to Finance and Treasury Minister Don Polye advising him that the so-called charges against Baliki were "trumped up and malicious".
He said the charges were "vindictively applied by the current director of the museum Meck Kuk because we have denied him unaccountable access to the NMAG's funds".
"Police have been investigating allegations by Meck Kuk since Aug 24 and there is no evidence of any fraudulent practices. The only payments made by the trustees have been to legitimate creditors including electricity and water supplies, because the director refuses to process their accounts for payment.
"Minister, the action by police will have major ramifications for the business community and your government.
"Aho Baliki is a senior banker and a prominent member of the business community, with many years of service in the banking industry.
"He has a very strong reputation as an honest and industrious person and Meck Kuk and his friends and relatives in the police should not be allowed to tarnish his reputation," Violaris said.
"In your position, you must also consider the impact on the business community as they ponder on how a prominent banker with impeccable integrity can be falsely accused and charged."
Violaris said Kuk had been attempting to gain "unfettered control of the museum's finances" and used his "tribal and kinship connections in the police to attain his ends".
"These charges and arrests are an act of desperation on his part. We have asked our minister to have him suspended by the NEC, three months ago, and we hope that this will happen soon as this man has no regard what damage he causes to the reputation of people by his illegal actions," he said.
Violaris also gave The National a copy of a court order of last June 27, which allowed the current trustees to stay in office after they were wrongfully terminated by the former culture and tourism minister Guma Wau.
The National Court granted the trustees leave for a judicial review on their termination and that is yet to take place.
Violaris said last night the K149,400.97 which Kuk claimed were illegal payments were, actually "critical" payments necessary to maintain the museum.
They included water bills, telephone charges, electricity and legal fees.