New governance watchdog PNGi exposes O’Neill’s business networks

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Masthead today from the PNGi Central website. Image: PMW

Pacific Media Watch News Desk

PNGi is set to revolutionise governance in Papua New Guinea by cracking open the secrets of the rich and powerful and exposing them to public view.

Using the latest digital technologies, PNGi aims to investigate, analyse and expose the often hidden and opaque systems standing behind the abuse of political and economic power.

Its two flagship resources are the PNGi Portal and PNGi Central websites,

They have been established and are sustained by an informal network of academics, activists and journalists involved in researching and writing about current issues in Papua New Guinea.

“In accordance with a robust risk assessment process, in some instances, contributors are protected by publishing their work anonymously,” said PNGi in a response to a query from Pacific Media Watch.

“However, all published material has been peer-reviewed, and is rigorously referenced, using freely accessible documentary sources. This allows anyone to verify each factual claim made.”

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The PNGi Portal is an on-line database of governance reporting. It collates documents produced by institutions like the Ombudsman Commission, Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee and makes them available to the public through a powerful search engine.

The public can now search and cross-match reports, to uncover serial misconduct by target individuals or entities.

The database is a major addition to due diligence in Papua New Guinea. It will add value to the work of journalists, researchers, students, public officials, oversight agencies, citizens and responsible corporate actors.

Sitting alongside the portal is PNGi Central, a reporting platform that will use a range of formats to communicate the results of research into:

— the discrete networks that lie at the heart of the country’s economic and political power, and which are mired in allegations of improper and illicit conduct;

— the institutional and legal mechanisms the networks use;

— common transaction patterns; and

— the broader policy and legal factors that are permissive of improper or illegal activities.

PNGi Central represents the most sophisticated reporting effort yet in the region, to speak truth to power through rigorous research, accessible to the public through digestible mechanisms ranging from feature investigations, through to podcasts, power profiles and court reports.

O’Neill’s business network
To launch the new websites and illustrate PNGi’s research capabilities, PNGi Central has published a report into the business network of current Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Titled The Midas Touch, this investigative feature, to be published in three-parts, will reveal hundreds of millions of kina in assets owned by the Prime Minister, and a business empire that has its origins in alleged frauds condemned in two Commissions of Inquiry.

Part I, published today, unlocks for the first time the evidence of the Prime Minister himself, as published in Commission transcripts, and unravels a complicated series of corporate takeovers and hidden deals that have made Peter O’Neill a very wealthy man.

Parts II and II will follow over the coming weeks.

Once complete, The Midas Touch will expose how the Prime Minister’s corporate empire has benefited from government decision making, multi-lateral loans, and even foreign government spending.

PNGi contributions aim is to stimulate debate and encourage the development of new laws and policies that will be effective in the fight to control market abuse, corruption and other improper dealings, and, ultimately, to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.

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