The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigation this week has revealed conflicting narratives of why a bribery complaint laid against a senior health department manager was withdrawn.
According to the Health Secretary, Pascoe Kase, who was interviewed days before Harupa Peke, the owner of Global Customs was summoned, he was advised that Mr. Peke, withdrew bribery accusations because the claims were exaggerated and untrue.
Responding to a series of questions by the PAC, Secretary Kase, said he received a letter of complaint against the Department’s Corporate Services Manager, Paul Dopsie, on 11th of May 2018.
He subsequently wrote to the Finance Secretary seeking support for an investigation into the allegations.
The Department of Finance responded 10 months later in a letter to Secretary Kase, saying the claims by Harupa Peke were largely exaggerated.
“They wrote to me saying that Finance investigators interviewed Mr. Peke twice and he withdrew the allegations. According to the Department of Finance letter to me, the allegations were deemed exaggerated and baseless,” Mr Kase said reading from a statement.
However, on Monday, Mr. Peke, when questioned by the PAC later said he felt threatened and had to withdraw the bribery complaint.
He told the PAC that he was interviewed by the National Executive Council’s audit team and later by an assistant secretary within the Finance Department responsible for enforcement, Mose Puli.
“I was told that arrests would be made and that Paul Dopsie would be arrested. I was also advised of my security,” Mr. Peke said.
The Public Accounts Committee began investigations into the National Department of Health this month, following years of complaints over medicine shortages in health facilities.
What has also become exposed through the investigation is an organized syndicate involving senior health staff and contractors.
Upon further questioning by the PAC’s Deputy Chairman, Mr. Peke said that Mose Puli had cautioned him about the consequences of proceeding with the case.
“It was a serious matter. It concerns my life and my business as well,” he said.
When asked by Gary Juffa if he withdrew the complaint because he felt that his life and business were being threatened, Harupa Peke, responded with a ‘yes.’
On Monday, committee members went to urban clinics in Port Moresby where staff also told them about medicine shortages and other problems.
At the end of the inquiry, a set of recommendations will be delivered to Parliament.
If the revelations in the past two weeks is any hint of what is to come, several people could be referred to police for separate criminal investigations.