O’Neill verdict expected today

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By CHARLES MOI
LAWYER Greg Sheppard has asked court to acquit former prime minister Peter O’Neill of his abuse of office charge because the State has failed to prove its case to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
O’Neill is facing a trial for abusing his office over a letter dated Dec 4, 2013, that he wrote to acting Treasury secretary Dairi Vele to identify funds to buy two 15-megawatt diesel generators that year.
Sheppard, who represented the Ialibu-Pangia MP, told Justice David Cannings in the National Court in Waigani yesterday that the letter of Dec 4, 2013 was not a directive from O’Neill to pay K50 million to LR Group Ltd for the generators.
Sheppard said O’Neill had instead requested the Treasury Department to identify funds for the purchase of the generators.
Sheppard said it was Prime Minister James Marape who was then finance minister in 2013 who had approved the purchase of the generators following a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.
He said Parliament had approved the payment through the Supplementary Appropriation Bill (Supplementary Budget) in Nov 26, 2013.
Sheppard added that O’Neill had endeavoured to address the electricity problem in Port Moresby and Lae through the purchase of the generators. He said O’Neill had acted in good faith.
State prosecutor Helen Roalakona in her submission said the letter of Dec 4, 2013, was a specific directive from O’Neill to buy the generators.
“The content of the letter contained the direction upon which the Department of Treasury acted,” Roalakona said.
Roalakona said there was no specific decision from NEC to buy the generators and that there was no valid contract in place when the letter was written by O’Neill.
Roalakona said the supplementary budget passed in Nov 26, 2013, did not come into effect until February 2014.
She alleged that O’Neill had abused his authority in directing the payment of K50 million to buy the generators and that there was no value for money.
“This is a case where the ends do not justify the means,” she said.
Roalakona said the state had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
It was alleged that O’Neill then made a submission to Cabinet on March 5, 2014, seeking approval for PNG Power to buy the generators for K94 million without disclosing that K50 million had already been paid to LR Group on Dec 18, 2013.
The balance of K44 million was paid on June 26, 2014, after then-finance minister Marape issued an approval under the Independent Business Corporation Act 2002 and the Public Finance Management Act 1995 for PNG Power to enter into contract with the Israeli company.
O’Neill is alleged to have paid the K50 million when the purported contract of sale did not exist and without proper approval.
The court is expected to give its decision on verdict today (Thursday).

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