The National – Friday, December 3, 2010
By JEFFREY ELAPA
THE nation’s top planners admitted yesterday that there is a highly organised syndicate operating with the bureaucracy who preys on recipients of government cheques.
They included public servants, bank workers and police personnel who may have milked the state of millions of kina over the years.
Members of the syndicate, mostly women public servants, take “cuts” of K10,000 to K30,000 to facilitate quick payment of these cheques at commercial banks.
National Plannning Minister Paul Tiensten and his departmental secretary Joseph Lelang said this at a media conference, adding weight to what had been suspected by the public for some time.
“This syndicate has done a lot of damage to individuals and organisations,” Tiensten said.
He and Lelang called a media conference after The National ran a front-page story yesterday about an MP claiming that he had paid K10,000 to a staff of the department to have a cheque of K12.4 million released, only to find out that it was a bogus cheque.
Tiensten was angry that Telefomin MP Peter Iwei could allow himself to be conned. Tiensten called on the Ombudsman Commission to investigate Iwei for facilitating official corruption in depositing K10,000 into a Westpac account for the immediate release of funds.
“This is a very irresponsible leader who, earlier, had misplaced K1 million of DSIP funding for the people of Telefomin in a taxi.
“The people of Telefomin should be given a fair treatment by their member.
“Parliament recently increased MPs’ salaries and he should buy himself a car instead of running around in a taxi with cheques.”
Teinsten said the cheque issued was bogus, and was never raised by the department.
He said there was a scam in operation outside of Vulupindi House, not within his department as people claimed, although there were “several rotten officers” in National Planning who were also involved in supplying information to facilitate the fraud.
Tiensten said they were producing copies of fake cheque, claiming that they were from the department and asking people for commission for up to K30,000.
He said the syndicate was using electronic copies of cheques remittances in their computers and printing them out and were conning people, pretending to be him or his secretary, and asking for commissions for the release of fake departmental cheques.
Tiensten said the recent case of Iwei depositing K10,000 into the account of a woman was not an isolated case.
He said he was aware of other similar cases.
“This syndicate is an evil existing in our society. Look at the links, the police is involved as well as the banks are involved,” he said.
He said on two different occasions, some people were caught and locked up at the Boroko police cell but they were released on unknown grounds without even turning up in court.
He said a woman was caught with money in the New Erima Primary School scam but she was set free by police.
In another incident, a woman was arrested for the diocese of Bereina case involving K20,000, but she was also set free.
He said several incidents were known and referred to police but the suspects were running around free.
“I appeal to the new police commissioner to investigate these cases,” he said.
Teinsten said things were made even more difficult when callers could not be identified because there was no control over the issue of mobile phone sim cards where people would buy them without registration.