PM to get brief on K15m claim

National, Normal

OFFICIALS travelling with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare in New Zealand are seeking more details of a report of the settlement of the K15 million claim to businessman Peter Yama by the Attorney-General’s office.
The matter is serious enough to warrant concern, although they did not want the New Zealand visit schedule disrupted.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said it (the K15 million settlement) would be “a real concern to Government if this is what has happened”.
The spokesperson said they were seeking more details of the story from the Prime Minister’s office in Port Moresby before Sir Michael could be fully briefed while on tour.
The National reported yesterday that the Attorney-General had consented with Mr Yama to settle the K15 million, a damages claim for compensation Mr Yama had lodged against the State for alleged loss of business in Madang some years back.
The claim surfaced late last year when Finance Department officials processed a cheque for K7 million in part-payment for Mr Yama, then blocked the cheque from being cashed when the Prime Minister’s office intervened through acting chief of staff Leonard Louma.
Mr Louma, Finance secretary Gabriel Yer and the State became defendants in a proceeding in which Cabinet had directed them to fight the Yama claim in court.
The Yama claim was also referred to the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department as fraud was suspected.
Adverse findings were made by the Sheehan Commission which could not be reported here because of a court order.
But, in a surprise move, the Attorney-General’s office consented with Mr Yama to settle the claim, apparently without the knowledge of the other defending parties.
Mr Yer said on Tuesday he was not aware of the consent order for settlement.
Attorney-General Dr Alan Marat and Solicitor-General Neville Devete were not available for comments on Tuesday and yesterday.
Several Cabinet ministers have expressed surprise that a standing NEC decision to fight this claim was violated.