Papua New Guinea police investigate top election officials for alleged corruption

Clifford Faiparik
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea police investigate top election officials for alleged corruption A general view of Papua New Guinea's parliament in session after James Marape was sworn in for his second term as prime minister in Port Moresby, Aug. 9, 2022. Marape was sworn in after an election hit by violence and alleged corruption that also ended a five-year absence of women in parliament.
Andrew Kutan/AFP

Updated at 2:41 a.m. ET ON 12-21-2022

Papua New Guinea police are investigating corruption allegations against top election officials in the wake of the Pacific island country’s violence-marred election in July.

The elections manager for Southern Highlands Province, Alwynn Jimmy, was arrested last week for allegedly misappropriating 5 million kina (U.S. $1.5 million) that was meant for running the election. He was released on 1,000 kina bail.

Meanwhile, a court’s stay order has prevented anti-graft police from searching the Electoral Commission headquarters in Port Moresby for financial documents they are seeking as part of their investigation into Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai and his deputy, John Kalamorah.

“There needs to be an immediate independent review [of the Electoral Commission],” Wilson Thompson, chairman of Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute, said Wednesday.

The allegations against Sinai and Kalamorah are concerning and a review is needed to restore accountability to the Electoral Commission and to limit electoral fraud, he said.

Election returning officers often keep their jobs, Thompson said, even after their administration of elections is successfully challenged in court. 

National Crimes Directorate Chief Inspector Joel Simatab told BenarNews that Jimmy allegedly took election funds from an Election Commission account between May and August this year and put the money into his car-hire business. 

Detectives with the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate allege that a company allocated funds by Sinai to install CCTV cameras in vote-counting locations never delivered on the project.

The directorate’s warrant to search the Electoral Office headquarters was put on hold by a district court in Port Moresby last week after Sinai and Kalamorah alleged a signature on the warrant was forged and that the complainant in the case had political motives. Neither man has admitted any wrongdoing.

Police hope to have the stay order set aside at the next court hearing in the case, set for March 28, which would allow them to carry out their search.

Some 96% of Papuan New Guineans think corruption is a big problem for their country, according to a Transparency International survey of Pacific island countries last year, and more than half had paid a bribe to receive government services. 

In July, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Papua New Guinea, Dirk Wagener, condemned the reported deaths of dozens of people in the country’s highlands during a chaotic two-week voting period for national elections.

The U.N. said allegations of ballot tampering and ballot box theft, as well as poor organization, planning, and underlying clan rivalries, fueled instability during the election.

This story has been updated to correct the name of the Electoral Commission office.


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