NMAG funds are not to be abused

Letters, Normal

The National – Monday, June 20, 2011

I REFER to your report “Court asked to rule on blocked funds” (June 16).
It is misleading as the National Museum and Art Gallery funds are not blocked.
The museum is not in dire straits as claimed by the director, Meck Kuk.
The museum is hindered in its ope­rations because the director refuses to carry out his duties to manage the NMAG as required by law and not because he does not have access to funds.
He has full access to funds but only for legitimate purposes.
Kuk has been appointed as the director of the NMAG by the head of state on advice from the NEC.
Both Kuk and the minister would like to believe that because of this, he should have full control of the NMAG accounts.
Apparently this has been the practice in the past but certainly not under the current board of trustees.
As trustees, we have to protect the NMAG and all its assets.
That is part of our role.
Another of our duties is to set the policies of the NMAG and to give directions to the director.
The National Museum and Art Gal­lery Act 1992 is the governing act for establishing and operating the NMAG.
It requires the director to “manage the NMAG according to the policies and directions established by the trustees”.
One of the policies is that all payments to be made by the NMAG will need to be approved by a trustee and all cheques issued must be signed by either the director or the museum accountant and countersigned by a trustee.
This system can be easily implemented but Kuk refuses to do this.
Since his appointment as director, he has refused to communicate with the trustees and it was only last Tuesday that the president and deputy president went to see him to discuss this issue and he requested a meeting with the trustees for the following day.
At the meeting, the trustees explained their position for the policies and that is basically that the board of trustees has no confidence in the director but, regardless, we are happy to work with him to facilitate honest and transparent management of the museum, including its accounts.
Among the reasons the trustees have no confidence in the director are: he has refused to cooperate and communicate with the trustees; and he has attempted to change the signatories to the accounts to himself and two others from within the NMAG.
The two others were the signatories under the previous director when millions of kina disappeared together with all documentation.
These people are still under investigation.
The trustees will not allow this and we issued relevant policies that will not only allow the proper and transparent management of the museum but also protect its assets, including its accounts.
The director has an issue with this arrangement as does our minister.
The minister went as far as to write directly to the bank, threatening legal action unless it allowed the director unhampered access.
When this failed, the minister “suspended” the trustees but his authority does not extend to that.
Only the head of state, under NEC’s advice, can suspend or terminate the trustees and this with good reason.
When that failed, Kuk then sought to take out court orders restraining the trustees from having any control of the accounts.
What the public should know is that the trustees hold all of the museums assets in trust, for the people of PNG, and not just the director.
While the current trustees are in office, we will not allow the mu­seum’s accounts to be pillaged by unscrupulous employees and their associates.
We are disappointed that The National did not seek the view of the trustees to be able to present a balan­ced report, but perhaps the reporter only writes stories.


Julius Violaris
President, Board of Trustees, NMAG