GULF Governor Havila Kavo has been jailed for three years for misusing K131,338 in public money.
The money was initially earmarked for infrastructure development in the Kikori district and was sitting in a LNG (Kutubu MoA) pipeline trust account.
Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika reached this decision in the National Court yesterday despite pleadings for a lesser penalty, specifically a non-custodial sentence, by defence lawyers Abraham Kumbari and Sarea Soi and Kavo himself (in his allocutus).
Sir Gibbs also refused the defence submission asking him to use his discretion to suspend the entire sentence.
Instead the Deputy Chief Justice ruled that Kavo spend half (18 months) of his three-year sentence in jail for breaching the trust of his people and deducted another 18 months for repaying the money.
Consequently Kavo will be interned for a year and six months at Bomana prison outside Port Moresby.
Kavo, who is a medical laboratory technician by profession, from the Ihu district of Gulf Province, was told by the court during sentencing yesterday that he got the money from the "wrong basket" (trust funds) to pay his outstanding allowances.
The judge refused Kavo’s argument that he acted on wrong advice provided by public servants in the Gulf provincial administration, saying they were only executing a Gulf provincial executive council (PEC) decision, which was chaired by him (Kavo). "The prisoner blames public servants for wrong advice in this case but they were only implementing what the PEC had resolved," Sir Gibbs said.
The senior judge said MPs are in positions of high degree of trust and that they are mandated by the people to serve their interest.
When finding Kavo guilty on September 25 this year, Sir Gibbs said the governor was dishonest in his application of the funds for personal use.
This was tantamount to misappropriation as he was paid out of the K10 million trust funds for special development projects in Gulf Province.
Kavo and his lawyers had asked the judge to impose a non-custodial sentence, claiming the monies paid to him were his lawful outstanding allowances.
They further submitted that the payment was according to what the PEC resolved in its meeting and it was not a one-man decision.
The other ground they relied on to push for a lesser penalty was the fact that Kavo had reimbursed the money two days before his conviction. But Sir Gibbs maintained that Kavo got the money from the "wrong basket" as it was trust money.
The K131,338 paid to Kavo came from the K10 million funding by the National Government for the Kutubu MoA commitments for the people in Kikori district, especially those residing along and within the 10km corridor of the Kutubu project pipeline.
Sir Gibbs also made it clear in the packed National Court room at Waigani that payments of entitlements or outstanding allowances should not come from trust funds. ONE PNG /Post Courier