PORT MORESBY – Senior politicians and others who engineered a K3 billion loan to the Papua New Guinea government in 2014 must be held accountable, says former Treasurer Don Polye
In that year the O'Neill government decided to borrow the money, which represented 75% of the PNG budget, from the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).
Its purpose was to buy 149 million shares in Oil Search, which represented a 10% stake in the company.
The investment subsequently incurred a massive loss for the government and a commission of inquiry is now investigating the debacle.
In March 2014, the O'Neill government had decided to borrow K3 billion from UBS, a massive amount considering PNG's development budget that year was K4 billion.
Polye, now MP for Kandep, who was Treasurer at the time, told the inquiry he was sacked because he refused to sign the documents to facilitate the loan agreement.
He said those people responsible for the deal were "enemies of the state" and should not be let off easily.
He stated that the size of the purchase was so large it had caused the people of PNG suffer, and that was unfair.
Polye said the K3 billion could have been used for health and education and other productive purposes.
On Monday prime minister James Marape, who was finance minister at the time, attacked Peter O’Neill for entering into the deal.
“It was absolutely unnecessary for us to go down this path,” he said.
“I feel totally cheated, we all feel totally robbed.”
Marape said O’Neill had breached cabinet protocols by not informing him or Polye about the deal prior to a cabinet meeting where they were asked to approve the complex loan and share purchase.
Marape also criticised the bank over its role.
“UBS should have known better and should have done its due diligence to ensure all laws were complied with,” he said.
UBS has refused to cooperate with the inquiry.