By BEVERLY PETER
THE Waigani National Court has cleared all criminal charges against suspended secretary of the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) Fr Jan Czuba.
Acting judge Laura Kuvi, who acquitted Czuba yesterday, said the state had run the trial in an unusual manner.
“State had failed to establish the elements of the charge of three counts of abuse of office and one count of abuse of office for the purpose of gain against Czuba,” she said. “It was obvious that the state prosecutors did not understand their own case before proceeding with the trial.
“The State did not provide any evidence to prove that Czuba’s act was for personal gain or was not serving the interest of the State.”
Justice Kuvi discharged all four charges against Czuba and ordered for his bail money to be refunded.
“State allegations against Czuba for entering into agreement with Global Travel Service in 2015 was made clear by the State witnesses during the trial that it was the department that had entered into the agreement and not Czuba,” she said.
“The witness said we decided to engage the travel agent as we were having issues with Air Niugini with purchasing tickets for the students.
“The deputy secretary operations of Department of Finance Steven Nukutui and other witness confirmed that it was within Czuba’s power to sign any payments under K500,000. They have also confirmed that all the payments made were under K500,000.
“The state’s crucial witness established that there was no abuse of office in the matter and did not breach any National Procurement Commission procedures.
“There was no formal investigation commission by DHERST to look into allegations of malpractice or corruption in the office.
“The former executive finance manager and now deputy secretary, operation, Ruth Philip provided all the relevant documents and it had showed no evidence of wrong practice in any of the payment.
“State allegations against Czuba for entering into agreement with the PCG Academia in purchasing software licensing and maintenance as unlawful against the state was not proven.”
Justice Kuvi said Czuba had acted on a National Executive Council decision to digitise the country’s education system.
“The evidences before the court showed that there were nine separate contracts in purchasing of the software licence and maintenance, the state only identified two.
“The state decided to put all the agreements as one and lump sum the amounts which makes it looks like Czuba had signed a payment which was way over his approved limit.
“State, in this case, does not appreciate the areas of information, communication, technology and computing.”
Justice Kuvi said the software licence was purchased to run new applications when maintenance was for maintaining what was already there.
“The different software purchased were used to create the online application, online selection, online selection for students under scholarships, online application for non-school leavers and private school and platform that allowed other colleges and technical schools to be part in the education system.
“From the evidence, state had saved K6 million annually from this online system as it reduces the cost to travel and accommodation fees for teachers flying into Port Moresby for selection.”
By BEVERLY PETER