IN THE Auditor General's Report to Parliament for 2011, which is a public document, Unitech (Lae’ University of Technology) appears as the only state institution in PNG which recorded an "adverse opinion". It is public knowledge that something has been wrong with Unitech's financial management for many years.
In fact, external audit reports since 2006 indicate serious deficiencies in financial administration. The former Council and management were apparently unable to take effective corrective measures. This is what prompted government interventions, and the dissolution of the former Council.
The first government intervention was a mediation team, which started in May last year and produced a report in November. In the process, everybody was heard and their stories were registered. The nature of this process, however, did not allow for systematic discovery of evidence.
The second government intervention last November was the appointment of the Interim Council when it became clear that the former council had failed in its duties of oversight, and holding the previous management accountable.
This small Interim Council had just five members and was given a specific set of priorities, which required urgent action: a fraud investigation, improved internet services, professional and institutional accreditation, salary revision, and some other activities.
The third intervention in January this year was the official enquiry, which is now taking place under the leadership of Judge Mark Sevua.
There is no witch hunt, just an honest effort to provide leadership towards the future.
Our management team has been mostly interested in bringing Unitech into the future, improving facilities on campus, providing leadership and professional management, and bringing teaching and research to a higher academic level.
Nobody in particular and no specific actions were required to bring out the truth about Unitech's past finances because they were out in the open for everybody to see: in the external audit reports, in assessments by professional organisations, and in consultants’ reports. Staff knew, civil servants knew, students knew and parents knew.
Last year, the facts about Unitech's finances inevitably started coming out in a chain of events that was initiated and prolonged by those who probably had a stake in hiding the truth.
They incessantly harassed Unitech management through courts, media and police. This all led up to my attempted arrest, illegal deportation and ongoing exile from PNG.
Last April, I did what any professional would do. Based on available external assessments, I revealed to Council the situation in which I found Unitech when I took over.
But I was mostly interested in presenting our strategy on how to carry Unitech forward. I said publicly and privately to former Council and management team members that I was not primarily interested in enquiries into a past about which I knew little.
To my surprise, however, panic broke out among Council members, and our strategy towards the future never received the attention and scrutiny it deserved.
Worried about the presentation of the Unitech budget to Treasury, Council's Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC) ordered an internal enquiry into the spending of the PIP Funds under the previous administration.
Subsequently, the management team established technical terms of reference and a large committee with a broad membership spent a few weeks finding the evidence and reporting it. All committee members contributed.
For this enquiry, normal University procedures were followed and there was no reason to personalise the issue. The documents spoke for themselves.
We are sorry that, given the time and budget restrictions, not everybody was heard during the internal enquiry. With the ongoing external enquiry ordered by the government, the full truth will undoubtedly come out. Anyone who feels unjustly accused will have the opportunity to clear their name.
Those who see witch hunts are not shy and name a few witches of their own. We must not make this a personal issue and get stuck in conspiracy theories that do not befit educated people.
The truth is coming out because of a succession of events that was a reaction to incessant harassment of management and attempts by former Council members to cover their tracks. It is ironic but true that, when one's actions are inspired by fear, the worst fears will become true.
Let everybody keep their heads cool in the coming months and let the process that was decided upon by the government follow its course. We must not allow raw emotion to cloud our judgement, self-interest to make us speak partial truths or fear to inspire our actions.
Those who were responsible for the management of Unitech should not start to act as victims in an attempt to win public sympathy but instead take their full responsibility, and explain the signatures on the documents.
There is no witch hunt at Unitech. Those who are in trouble now have only their own behaviour to blame in inevitably drawing attention to the past. We must not allow them to hold Unitech hostage but instead allow it to move beyond this phase towards new glory.