Extract from a recent research into the ‘dark economy of public health’ in Papua New Guinea by STAFF REPORTERS of the investigative website PNGi, which has been examining the network of business affiliates of Sir Sang Chung Poh, owner of pharmaceutical provider, Borneo Pacific
PORT MORESBY - In December 2012, the National Court ordered Dr Nicholas Mann [one of PNG’s most senior medical officers] and the State of PNG to each pay K15 million in damages to a company, Alpar Trading Limited, for the unlawful cancellation of a mosquito net supply contract.
The original court case appears to have gone unrecorded in the law reports. However, the facts and findings were later fully laid out in a Supreme Court decision that arose after Dr Mann’s attempted to overturn the original decision.
According to this decision, the National Court found that in 2004 the Department of Health, under Dr Mann’s direction, developed a project with Ron Seddon and Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM)to distribute treated mosquito nets.
The project was financed by The Global Fund and monitored by a Central Monitoring Committee chaired by Dr Mann and Mr Seddon.
After two years the Central Supply and Tender Board (CSTB) put the project out to public tender and awarded a K9 million contract to Alpar Trading Limited to supply PermaNet mosquito nets.
Dr Mann and RAM protested the decision but an Ombudsman Commission investigation ‘identified no evidence of irregular conduct’.
The Vietnamese supplier of PermaNet mosquito nets then informed Alpar Trading it had an exclusive supply agreement with RAM and would not deal with any other supplier in PNG. Alpar subsequently found an alternative supplier, nevertheless Global Fund withdrew its funding and the Alpar contract collapsed.
Alpar sued Dr Mann and the State for breach of contract, a claim the National Court upheld.
The National Court, it is reported, was especially scathing when it came to the conduct of Dr Mann, who ‘had no intention of allowing [Alpar] to enjoy the benefit of the contract with the CTSB’.
The Court also maintained that Alpar ‘could not perform the contract because of impediments placed in its path by, primarily, Dr Mann, who wanted the contract to be given to RAM’.
The National Court found the Vietnamese supplier of PermaNets had acted as it did ‘at the instigation of Dr Mann and RAM’
“The contract was “just a farce” and unlawfully terminated by Dr Mann for selfish reasons and not in the best interests of either the Department or the State”, the Court claimed.
“Dr Mann had not conducted himself properly in accordance with proper business ethics, and had breached his fiduciary duty to the Department in aligning himself with RAM in its bid for the public tender”.
“It was the fault of Dr Mann and, through him, the State that the respondent was unable to perform the contract”.
The Court dismissed claims the contract had collapsed because of the withdrawal of funding by The Global Fund.
“Global Fund is merely a scapegoat to bear the blame of deliberate and calculated decision taken by [Dr Mann] to defeat the Plaintiff performing this contract”
Although Dr Mann and the State launched an appeal against the National Court decision PNGi has not been able to find any report of the final outcome.