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The hunter was hunted in Commision of Inquiry: Basil

Staff Reporter 1/15/2015 | | |
The Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Department of Justice and Attorney General brief outs and legal costs last year triggered by the K36.1 million outstanding legal bill payments to Paul Paraka Lawyers allegedly at the behest of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been completed in record time, says Deputy Opposition Leader Sam Basil.
Astoundingly, the terms of reference of the low keyed COI was made so narrow that it only probed one man in former Attorney General Kerenga Kua and excluded the real target and alleged mischief which was Paul Paraka Lawyers and many others.
Mr. Basil says the terms of reference was prepared by lawyers outside of AG’s office and restricted the period of inquiry to only two years prior to the date of the inquiry which was 30th July 2014. These two years coincidently was the very same period Mr Kua was in office as Attorney General.
Mr Basil is concerned that this has effectively barred the commission from inquiring into Paul Paraka Lawyers payments amounting to millions of kina. 
“Apparently, Paraka’s bills totaling up to over K75 million including others paid earlier prior to Mr. Kua’s tenure in office. As a result of the restricted time frame in the TOI, Paul Paraka Lawyers was never probed by the COI and effectively left to go free.”
As per Mr Kua’s evidence to the COI at his appointment, it was not possible to receive a precise briefing on the then total number of external briefs, the time span required to complete each matter and the total costs.
“The impact of the total legal cost and damages to the State, real and contingent is never known at any given time. We travel blind all the time which is not good for financial planning,” Mr. Kua had stated in his evidence to the Inquiry.
Basil said that Mr. Kua had told the inquiry that in the absence of such information, he was not prepared to incur further liabilities and did his best to minimize brief outs and directed most matters to be handled internally knowing full well it would overstretch resources and limited skills available to the Solicitor General and State Solicitor.
According to Mr. Kua, only a limited number of brief outs were done during his term with instructions after strictly complying with existing rules.
“This report brings to two the number of COI reports yet to see the light of day. The first one was the Finance COI which was restricted as a result of a court order placed on it which has since been cleared by Mr Kua during his tenure as Attorney General. Now we have a complementary COI on Legal Brief Outs with the outstanding COI into Finance. So why is the long delay in implementing the two reports, Mr Basil questioned?
“Is it because top government officials including the prime minister himself, several of his cabinet ministers and his chief of staff are implicated?”
Further, Mr. Basil challenged Mr. Kua to explain whether the Court Order on the release of the COI into Finance has been removed as he had informed Parliament then and what is the next step to bring these two COI Reports to Parliament. We had enough COI that are released when the perpetrators have died or when officers have been removed and cannot be answerable for their actions.

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