LATE last week, Western Province governor Ati Wobiro (right) and his two co-accused, provincial administrator Dr Modowa Gumoi and Fly Care Foundation chairman Normal Carl May were each granted K10, 000 bail after serving 10 nights in Bomana gaol.
They had been found guilty and convicted on 26 July for conspiring to defraud the provincial government and the people of Western Province of K7.6 million by establishing a dodgy charity and diverting government funds to it.
The bail was allowed on medical grounds amounting to exceptional circumstances. They paid a total of K30,000 to depart the gaol, at least until they are sentenced later in the year.
Justice Panuel Mogish said he was satisfied the medical facility at Bomana was not appropriate to treat the trio. They had convinced the court that they all had prevailing health conditions that needed constant medical attention, which they could not get in gaol.
The trio will report to Waigani Court House on the first Monday of each month and they must reside within the boundaries of the National Capital District pending their sentencing.
Their next court appearance is on 27 August, when a date for submissions on sentencing will be handed down.
The high profile figures had been found guilty of bypassing the processes mandated by the Public Finance Management Act before they entered into an agreement with Fly Care Foundation Inc in March 2013.
The court found that the foundation, purportedly a charitable organisation, operated for just a year, that it did not have the expertise to deliver services it was supposed to, that there were no audit reports and that staff were employed only on an ad hoc basis.
In the bail application, Wobiro’s lawyer Greg Egan submitted that his client’s medical conditions required him to be out on bail which was allowed by Justice Mogish after medical reports from reputable medical practitioners and specialists were produced.
Justice Mogish also considered the affidavit of Bomana gaol commander Superintendent, Haraha Keko that his facility was very basic and unable to accommodate, treat and monitor patients with heart conditions.
Mr Egan said his client’s condition was serious and he had to be treated appropriately otherwise he had a high risk of death if locked up in Bomana.
Anthony Kupmain from the Public Prosecutors Office objected to the application saying the evidence of medical conditions was not proper as the reports were not derived from current medical examinations.
The other co-accused, Modowa Gumoi and Norman May, made similar submissions on their medical conditions.
As the three men left court to board a Corrective Services vehicle for Bomana, PNG and international media who were outside the court house were assaulted and verbally abused by supporters of Governor Wobiro.
Post-Courier chief photographer Tarami Legei was abused and attempts made to seize his camera. Two journalists from PNG Loop and The National were also abused by the crowd.
Fortunately Court House security officers went to their aid and called the police. The attackers fled the scene before police arrived.
There is a back story to this whole sorry series of events.
When the police fraud squad first tried to arrest Governor Wobiro on allegations of corruption, he told them that others were trying to destroy the good works he was doing in the province.
It’s interesting to note that shifting blame is common in the words of many of our politicians.
“This has been my second experience and I want to appeal to the leaders of the Western Province,” Governor Wobiro said, claiming the allegations against him were the work of other politicians.
“We have a mandate to do, people have voted us into office to deliver. I have a mandate to deliver. I want to deliver and I think it is totally unfair on the people of Western Province that petty politics is getting in the way of our ability to deliver services to our people."
Nevertheless, Mr Wobiro was arrested and charged with 12 counts of abuse of office, conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation of public funds totalling to K7.6 million and duly found guilty.
The whistleblowers were three other MPs from Western Province, Aide Ganasi (South Fly), Roy Biyama (Middle Fly) and Boka Kondra (North Fly).
Mr Wobiro is a People’s United Assembly Party member and was in his first term in parliament until he was found guilty.