Friday, 5 August 2016

Ten nights in Bomana and out on bail: Governor Wobiro's case to set a precedent in PNG's “high-profile” corruption trials

BASED on medical reports for convicted Western Governor Ati Wobiro and his two (2) co-accused Western Provincial Administrator Dr. Modowa Gumoi and Fly Care Foundation chairman Normal Carl May were all granted a K10, 000 each for bail, after serving ten (10) nights in Bomana. The bail grant was allowed to the trio after finding that the medical grounds amount to exceptional circumstances as is required by law for allowing bail after conviction. The trio paid a total of K30, 000.00 bail to the state for a short relief until their final sentence to be read out after August.

In the bail application, Justice Mogish was also satisfied that the medical facility at the Bomana jail is not appropriate to treat the trio. They convinced the court that the all three had prevailing health conditions that need constant medical attention, which they will be deprived of if incarcerated.

The trio are to report to Waigani Court House every first Monday of every month, as per speculated in the bail conditions. The conditions direct them that they are to reside within the boundaries of National Capital District (NCD), pending their sentencing. These three “high-profile” figures will return to court on August 27, where a date for submissions on sentencing will be handed down.

Wobiro, Gumoi and May were found guilty and convicted on July 26th, 2016 for conspiring to defraud Western Provincial Government and the ordinary people of Western Province of K7.06 million by establishing Fly Care Foundation and diverting the monies to it. The trio found to be conspiring the Fly Care Foundation between January 1st and December 30th, 2013 by using K7.6 million funding from the provincial government.

The Court found that the three bypassed all the processes captured under the Public Finance Management Act before they entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Fly Care Foundation Inc.

They entered into an agreement after a purported meeting on March 23, 2013. This was a meeting the court found did not eventuate despite meeting minutes produced in court during the trial. Other sitting MPs in the province, Boka Kondra and Roy Biyama, told the court they did not attend any meeting on that day.

Court also found that the Fly Care Foundation Inc. was only a year in operation with no audit reports, staff employed on an ad hoc basis and did not have the expertise to deliver services it was supposed to under the MOA. It was a charitable organization.

Justice Ipang, in his ruling, said there was overwhelming evidence that Wobiro paid K350, 000 to a New Century as a cover up for informal sector projects when it was actually intended to pay for his electoral officials who led his campaign in the 2012 General Elections.

It was also found that he paid out monies for various church projects in the province without proper processes followed.

Justice Ipang said despite some programs completed by Fly Care Foundation Inc, no proper reports were given.

After the court found the trio guilty, they were being kept at the Waigani National Court holding cell, awaiting an urgent bail application and later taken to Bomana

On the bail application, Wobiro’s lawyer Greg Egan who represented the Possman Kua Aisi Lawyers submitted that his medical conditions required him to be out on bail and Mr. Wobiro was ready to pay a bail fine of K10, 000 if bail was granted.

Justice Panuel Mogish allowed bail after medical reports produced before the court came from reputable medical practitioners and specialists.

He also allowed bail after considering the affidavit of Bomana Jail Commander, Superintendent, Haraha Keko, that the CIS facility at Bomana was very basic and unable to accommodate, treat and monitor patients with heart conditions.

Lawyer Egan said his client’s condition was very serious and he had to be treated effectively and appropriately and was highly at risk of death if he was locked up at Bomana.

But State lawyer Anthony Kupmain from the Public Prosecutors Office objected to the application saying the evidences of their medical conditions was not proper as they were just reports and not actual current medical examinations.

The other two co-accused Dr. Modowa Gumoi and Norman May also submitted similar submissions on related medical conditions. Bail was granted after they spent 10 nights at Bomana.

As the trio left the court to hop on the CIS vehicle for Bomana on the 26th of July, PNG and International media personnel who were outside the court house rushed to take photos, video footages and interviews as their normal duty call for the professional journalists and photographers.

 But it turned out nasty with the supporters of Governor Wobiro verbally abusing and assaulting the media personnel.     

The Post-Courier chief photographer Tarami Legei was verbally abused and physical attempts were made by two different people to remove his camera. Two other journalists from PNG Loop and The National were also verbally abused by the same crowd.

They could have been physically assaulted just for doing their job but fortunate enough the Court House security officers went to the aid of the media personnel and called the police. But the attackers fled the scene before the police arrived.

When Governor Wobiro was first tipped of the alleged corruption and when police fraud squad were trying to arrest him and investigate the matter, he said it was ‘the work of people’ (politicians) trying to destroy the good works that he was doing in the Province.

The Governor, like many other politicians today, was too quick to blame “other people” or in brackets the “politicians”. It’s interesting to note that shifting of blame is common in the words of many PNG politicians. It could have been the whistle-blower in the midst of ‘high-profile’ corruption occurrence but instead it could be made it look like a ‘high-profile’ tug of war when out in the media-trial shifting blames to unsuspecting ‘other politicians’.

This is what Governor Wobiro has to say when he claimed the allegations against him was the work of other politicians, “This has been my second experience and I want to appeal to the leaders of the Western Province. 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."

If it was the work of “petty politicians” Mr. Wobiro would not be arrested and charged with twelve (12) counts of Abuse of Office, Conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation of public funds, totaling to K7.6 million. The confident and patriotic whistle-blowers were the three Open MPs from Western Province including South Fly MP Aide Ganasi, Middle Fly MP Roy Biyama and North Fly Boka Kondra.

Mr. Wobiro is a People’s United Assembly Party (PUA) member and was elected into parliament on the 26th, July 2012 with 19,504 votes.

He served as governor for Western Province and Member of Permanent Parliamentary Standing Order Committee until he was found guilty on the 26th, July 2016 – about exact four (4) years in power.

Western Governor Ati Wobiro during one of his days in Western :Province. Image: Awayang Namorong/Facebook Post/2016.

Western Western Province Governor  Ati Wobiro signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PNG Sustainable Development Programme while PNGSDP Chairman Ross Garnaut and PNGSDP CEO David Sode look on. Behind the Governor is the Deputy Administrator for Western Province. Image: Awayang Namorong / Facebook Post/2016.
Western Province Governor Ati Wobiro being welcome by OK Tedi Development Foundation CEO at Tabubil, Image: Amayang Namorong/Faccebook Post/2016.


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