Meauri says he will fight referral


Acting Defence Secretary Trevor Meauri says his referral for alleged misconduct in office by the Ombudsman Commission relates to disciplinary actions against nine employees in the department by the former secretary, the late Vali Asi.
Meauri’s response comes after the Ombudsman Commission referred  the allegations to Public Prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin to decide whether to prosecute the matter.
He said the nine employees had appealed against the disciplinary actions against them.
“That process is still ongoing, and I cannot interfere while it is pending,” Meauri said.
But Meauri said the commission issued a direction to him to reinstate the officers.
Meauri said he refused to comply with the direction because there was an appeal by the officers pending, as required by the Public Services (Management) Act.
“Only one of them was successful in her appeal through the Public Services Commission, and I have reinstated her,” Meauri said.
“I am therefore disappointed about this referral, and question the integrity of the commission to proceed in this manner. At no point did they contact me to discuss and verify the credibility of the complainants, who are the terminated staff.”
Meauri also questioned the timing of the media statement announcing the referral.
“Any reasonable person would ask if it was coincidental that the announcement was made on the eve of the closure of applications for the Secretary’s position,” he said.
“I have built a career in the public service over 17 years, at the Department of Prime Minister and NEC.  I was appointed to the Department of Defence with the task of cleaning up and restoring good governance practices.
“The department has been saddled with mismanagement and corruption over the years, and drastic action needed to be taken to save an entity that is responsible for the welfare of our men
and women in the PNG Defence Force.
“The ombudsman’s action comes at a time when some semblance of stability and transparency have been put in place. I am extremely disappointed with this referral and the negative implication and perception it will create on my personal and professional reputation.
“I will use all legal means available to fight this referral.”