Launa’s not dirty

Main Stories, Sports

The National – Wednesday, December 29, 2010

 PNG Sports Foundation acting board chairman Graham Osborne has gone in to bat for his chief executive officer Iamo Launa after reports surfaced earlier this month alleging instances of mismanagement and misappropriation by the CEO.

It was only two weeks ago Launa made a public plea for funds to get the 2015 Pacific Games preparations underway but  it seems she may have questions to answer regarding her own use of funds.

In a widely circulated file of complaints sighted by The National, sources from within the PNGSF claimed there was sufficient evidence of mismanagement and misappropriation of sports funds within the foundation administration that warranted an immediate investigation.

The file claimed there was also evidence of abuse of power by those in authority in obtaining advances and awarding of contracts to unregistered companies. 

But Osborne, who confirmed receiving the file, staunchly refused to pass judgment on Launa.

“Yes, I received the file weeks ago and, as the chairman, I have the final say.

“I’m reviewing it at present but I can say that hardly any of it is true.”

The file has been forwarded to the other investigative institutions such as the Ombudsman Commission, PNG Transparency International, the office of the chief secretary, the auditor-general’s office, the Public Service Commission and the sports minister’s office.

Furthermore, a letter by Sports Minister Philemon Embel dated Dec 13 to Osborne stated there had been numerous complaints in writing that warranted a thorough investigation.

The acting chairman, however, played down the allegations attributing them to disgruntled past employees of the foundations with an axe to grind.

“I’ve met with Iamo regarding this and she explained things and acquitted for everything.

“These allegations are being made by former staff members of the PNGSF who were themselves charged with misappropriation.”

Osborne said Launa, a  decorated former representative track athlete, was as good a person as any who had his confidence.

“That woman is so stringent she demands no less than three quotes for every purchase by the foundation. 

“She’s really turned the foundation around in her three years (2008-10) as CEO and  she’ll get more done, I’m sure,” Osborne said. 

Some of the major complaints highlighted in the report include :  

* Mismanagement and misappropriation regarding procurement procedures and awarding of contracts 

* Engagement of the consultants, dealing with unregistered companies and payment and value of contracts

* Double dipping

* Excessive travel and allowance

* Non-acquittals of allowance

* Non-repayment of salary advance

* Nepotism in employment and awarding of contracts

In one such instance of double dipping, the PNGSF CEO picked up an advance payment of K14,077.20 in two separate cheques made on 22/12/2008, chq no: 59486 – K9,384.80 and 14/12/2009, chq no: 59508 – K4,692.40 while she was still on the Public Service Commission payroll.

In another instance, Launa allegedly approved K171,000 to a family-related land surveying company purportedly owned by her husband, Kila. 

According to a company search, Launa Land Services is an unregistered company which ceased operation on March 31, 2005. 

The awarding of the contract to Launa Land Services may be seen as a serious conflict of interest. 

Another contracting company, TK Building and Maintenance Contractor who was only registered this year, had been awarded PNG Sports Foundation’s contract dated back to 2009 was paid K600,000 to carry out general repair and maintenance jobs at Sir John Guise stadium. 

The payments made were seemed to be fraudulent as far as value of contractual jobs carried out is concerned. 

Complaints filed also alleged that since taking up senior executive position in mid 2008, Launa had been globe-trotting taking unapproved trips which cost tax payers K338,087.87 which they say could have been utilised in sports development programmes throughout the country.

It has  been further alleged that Launa has capitalised on non-existence of PNG Sports Foundation board to take unnecessary trips and claiming monies on traveling perks and privileges.

Currently, there are no major sports programmes undertaken by PNGSF except the popular Trukai Sports Youth Leadership Programme which is wholly funded by Trukai Industries.

The national government is yet to appoint a new board as the previous board members’ term expired last May. 

The new board is expected to be appointed early next year. 

It is understood that only the PNGSF board approves the travel of the CEO  which would mean all overseas trips taken by the head of sports without proper approval could be deemed  an abuse of procedure. 

Attempts to contact Launa yesterday for her comments were unsuccessful.