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Francis Potape’s colourful & controversial career interrupted

Francis PotapeKEITH JACKSON

FRANCIS Potape MP, sometime PNG Petroleum and Energy Minister, probably should have used his Master degree in engineering to do something really useful – like maintaining roads and bridges.

Late last week, the national court found Mr Potape and others guilty of conspiracy and misappropriating K330,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“One more ITFS case led to conviction today,” wrote Investigative Task Force Sweep chairman, Sam Koim, on Facebook.

The offences occurred in 2010 when the Komo-Margarima Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee passed a resolution to pay itself what it claimed to be outstanding allowances.

Mr Potape received K60,000 and other committee members K30,000 each. District Administrator Tumbi Yari and District Treasurer Francis Ank also received K30, 000 each.

Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika said the decision to award themselves the reimbursements without receipts amounted to conspiracy to defraud.

It wasn’t the first time the Hela MP has had a brush with the law.

After the 2007 general election former sitting member, Aluago Kaiabe, challenged Mr Potape’s victory in the Komo-Margarima seat and the National Court ruled there had been 4,882 votes illegally cast for Mr Potape.

As a result, the election was declared void but Mr Potape was re-elected at a by-election.

In November 2011 he was arrested and charged by Task Force Sweep on one count of conspiracy to defraud the State and another of misappropriation.

In what looked like a retaliatory move, Mr Potape then attacked the O’Neill government for paying K70 million to a hand-picked PNG LNG landowners while others missed out..

Deputy Chief Justice Salika said the Mr Potape and the other defendants will be sentenced on 3 November.

Comments

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Arnold Mundua

The agenda that resulted in the resolution being passed to pay themselves, including selected public servants, must be an interesting one based on an impact project.

There is rumour going around that while oil and gas projects in the Southern Highlands and Hela provinces are hitting headlines around world there are no real tangible developments on the ground to benefit the rural communities.

I hope the JDP&BPC did the right thing by paying themselves.
___________

They have all, including two public servants, been found guilty of conspiracy and misappropriation. We await the sentences with interest - KJ

Peter Kranz

The behaviour of Potape and his cronies is in stark contrast to the plight of their fellow countrymen.

Yesterday we had a delightful PNG family over to spend the day with us. The father had been sponsored by a PNG millionaire businessman to complete his ministry training in Australia.

He brought his lovely wife and three kids along with him, as there was no reason to believe the sponsorship would not cover this as he had been promised.

They are from the Southern Highlands - Potape territory. Gradually their sad story came to light.

Unfortunately the businessman reneged on his sponsorship deal some months ago for no apparent reason and left them stranded.

They had run out of money, could not finish paying the fees, had no money for rent and were running out of food. They risked being deported back to PNG before the man could take his exams.

Luckily they had become part of a close-knit church community here and the local members rallied around to help them.

Someone paid the fees anonymously, another made sure the rent was up-to-date, and boxes of food and vegetables started appearing on their doorstep.

They even have enough for airfares back home at the end of the year after graduation.

A story of good Christian charity which should put Potape to shame.

It should not be like this.

Mathias Kin

There are many more walking in and out of that haus tambaran. In fact nearly the whole lot should be thrown in jail.

Paul Oates

The real issue is not that a few get caught. The real issue is that the majority expect not to get caught and they have been proven right.

The blurring in the separation of powers in PNG's Parliament system due to a desire to be a 'bik man' and personally dole out government money as your own encourages corruption.

This is not something that is exclusively PNG's problem however when it does happen in Australia for example the perpetrators often do get caught (e.g. Obeid).

Until and unless PNG politicians relinquish their desire to personally dole out cash on their own whim as to what project needs the money, the problem will not go away.

The example set by MPs is then likely to be copied and aspired to by public servants who see those who set the rules setting the standard.

Most other people moan and groan but are liable to miss the point of why nothing happens and the services aren't working. They themselves must take ownership of the problem. Until they can and do, nothing will change.

There are those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened. Where do you, the reader, sit?

Barbara Short

Congratulations Sam!
Still plenty more to go off to prison!

Luke Johnson

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however it's an encouraging result in addressing PNG's outrageous and unacceptable culture of corruption, theft and stealing from the people.

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