THE NATIONAL / PACNEWS
Task Force Sweep chairman Sam Koim said their investigations concluded that the letter on the payment did not come from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
“As it is now, we don’t have a case to pursue against O’Neill,” Koim said.
Koim said the case against O’Neill was on the letter of 24 January 2012 on the payment to the law firm which he denied writing or signing.
“We found that the alleged letter bearing the signature of O’Neill did not originate from his office nor was it communicated through the official channels of government directing payment,” Koim said.
O’Neill, Treasurer Don Polye, Finance Minister James Marape, former finance secretary Steven Gibson and others were implicated in the investigations on the payment of fees to the law firm.
The investigation found that even if O’Neill had written the letter, it was a political directive because the departments of Finance, Treasury and Justice would have ensured the propriety and regularity of expenditure from the funds appropriated by Parliament.
The amount of K71.8 million that was paid to the law firm was on top of what the firm received through other conduit firms over the last seven years.
Task Force Sweep investigators had questioned Gibson on the letter in question which was addressed to him and the copy had his official stamp with notations on it.
Gibson said a copy of the letter was produced to him by a lawyer at the Department of Finance conference room.
Task Force Sweep found that Polye and Marape appeared to make reference to the alleged letter by O’Neill but they had not officially written to O’Neill to verify the authenticity of that letter.
“A stark difference between the alleged letter by O’Neill and two ministers’ various correspondences is that both ministers claim to have had the opportunity to peruse the legal bills and were satisfied with the claim whereas O’Neill’s letter does not say so,” Koim said.
“The alleged letter by O’Neill makes references to previous ministerial directives given for payment hence that letter could not be the initiator of the payments. There is indeed evidence of prior ministerial directives.”
Task Force Sweep found that Polye and Marape assumed the role of the bureaucracy and actively pursued the settlement of the purported outstanding legal bills and took the alleged letter from O’Neill as an added reason for the payments.
Investigations found that public officials, either elected or employed, had deliberately flouted the established legal systems and processes to benefit the law firm.