National Provident Fund Commission of Inquiry Final Report (Serialization Parts 1-40)

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  • About

    Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare tabled the findings of the NPF Commission of Inquiry in Parliament on November 20, 2002 but the report was never published. In response, the Post-Courier newspaper published a serialised edited version of the NPF Final Report that started on 27 November 2002 and ran for more than 3 months.

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  • National Provident Fund Final Report [Part 1]

    SUMMARY OF EVENTS – 1995-1999 Pre 1995 – background The NPF commenced operations in 1980. After troubles with the management of the fund in the late 1980’s involving unauthorised expenditure by management and serious cost blowouts, the management of operations and investments was contracted in 1988 to Niugini Asset Management, a subsidiary of McIntosh Securities Ltd for a five-year period.

    At the end of the contract period in 1993, the period of external management ceased and NPF carried on as a self-managing entity. According to the Five-Year Development Plan 1995-99 (Schedule 1, paragraph 6.1) the Niugini Asset Management regime had stabilised the fund and introduced good corporate governance, with management reporting properly to the NPF Board and being properly supervised by the board.

    It had been intended that senior management positions would be staffed by experienced expatriates tasked with training nationals as middle-level management to replace them when ready.

    NPF was unable to recruit and hold the expatriate senior managers. In July 1993, Robert Kaul was appointed as managing director with expatriates Brendan Kelly and Jeffery Bunn as general manager and operations manager, respectively.

    Noel Wright, a former employee of Niugini Asset Management, stayed on as finance and investment manager. The chairman of the board was the experienced secretary of the DoF, Gerea Aopi.

    The other members of the management team were Herman Leahy as corporate secretary/legal counsel and the following inexperienced officers, Ian Tarutia (assistance compliance manager), Nellie Andoiye (assistant operations manager) and Salome Dopeke (assistant finance and investment manager).

    Appointment of new management team — 1995 This team did not last because Mr Kelly and Mr Bunn departed the NPF before the end of 1995. Mr Wright was soon promoted to deputy general manager and Mrs Andoiye, Ms Dopeke and Mr Tarutia were promoted into senior management positions for which they did not have the training, skills or experience. Mr Aopi ceased to be Secretary of the DoF and chairman of NPF on October 3, 1995, and was succeeded in both roles by Rupa Mulina on October 4, 1995. Mr Mulina preferred not to act as chairman of the NPF (perceiving a conflict of interest in the two roles of Secretary of the DoF and chairman of the NPF Board).

    Mr Mulina agreed to be replaced as chairman by Evoa Lalatute who was irregularly appointed by Minister Chris Haiveta on January 11, 1996 (Schedule 1, paragraph and paragraph 1 in Appendix 1). Mr Lalatute chaired only one meeting before his appointment was revoked by Minister Haiveta who wished to appoint Trustee David Copland as chairman.

    DoF Secretary Mulina gave evidence that he co-operated willingly and nominated Mr Copland as chairman and this was promptly approved by Minister Haiveta on April 18, 1996 (Schedule 1 paragraph and Appendix 2, Paragraph 2).

    1996 team with Mr Copland as Chairman Thus, by April 18, 1996, the key players in the management of the NPF were Mr Copland (former managing director of Steamships Trading Company Limited (STC) as chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr Kaul as managing director, Mr Wright as deputy general manager/ investment manager and Mr Leahy as corporate secretary/legal counsel.

  • Page 2 of 196

  • This team had a close relationship with Minister Chris Haiveta, who frequently used an office in the NPF premises (The names of the Trustees at any time can be ascertained from the table set out at paragraph 5.1.1 above) or from the graph at Schedule 1, Appendix 22 (Also at Appendix of this report).

    Prior to this date, NPF was following a conservative investment strategy and its only borrowing was that it operated on a K6.5 million-overdraft facility granted by the PNGBC (Schedule 2A, paragraph 2.4). There was no power for NPF to operate on overdraft and this overdraft had never been disclosed to or approved by the NPF Board. See the opinion of Allens Arthur Robinson at Schedule 2E, Appendix 6 referred to at Schedule 2E paragraph 14.6 and the Commission’s findings at Schedule 2E paragraph 18.3.

    New investment strategy approved by Minister Haiveta The new NPF team of Mr Copland, Mr Kaul, Mr Wright and Mr Leahy prepared a strategy to increase the growth of the fund by investing in PNG resource stock, which could be sold off profitably to make a tax-free capital gain.

    They also determined to take advantage of an imminent sale by the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Fund Board (DFRBF) and POSF of their holdings in STC and CXL.

    This strategy was devised in order to take advantage of existing market and interest rate conditions and with a nationalistic but misguided intention to enable Papua New Guineans to be able to participate (through their NPF membership) in the resource companies with interests in PNG.

    The intention was to obtain significant holdings in some of the smaller companies, so as to acquire seats on their boards and a massive holding in STC and CXL, in a bid to take them over and amalgamate and manage them as one company.

    This latter aim was related to Mr Copland’s personal agenda, which was rooted in the circumstances of his departure from his former position at STC.

    Rather than selling NPF’s holdings in IBD’s (which were then producing a good investment return) they opted to fund the proposed purchases of PNG equities by massive borrowings from the commercial banks, as interest rates were then favourable.

    Utilising borrowed funds for this purpose had been discussed previously in 1994 and Mr Leahy had then given totally wrong advice that it was within NPF’s power to borrow (Schedule 2A paragraph 2.2).

    There seems to have been no consideration that interest rates on borrowed capital might rise or that share prices might fall.

    The strategy was discussed with an enthusiastic Minister Haiveta who gave immediate verbal approval at a meeting at the Gateway Hotel in April 1996.

    Formal board approval was given on May 30, 1996, with no briefing papers for the board and little discussion. This was followed by immediate ministerial approval by Mr Haiveta, who did not seek the advice of the DoF. In this way, with little thought and no expert advice, the NPF board and Mr Haiveta approved the use of funds borrowed illegally from the ANZ Bank to purchase K39.7 million worth of shares in STC and CXL.

    It was improper conduct for which the Commission has recommended that Mr Haiveta and the NPF Trustees in office at the time, should be referred to the Ombudsman Commission to investigate whether there has been a breach of the Leadership Code (Schedule 4D, paragraphs 4.4.1 to 4.4.6). Borrowings-based investments

  • Page 3 of 196

  • During the rest of 1996 and 1997, the NPF proceeded to increase its borrowings in order to invest in PNG resource stock and in STC and CXL.

    It also invested in unlisted companies such as Crocodile Catering (Schedule 4L), BSP (Schedule 4J) and made investment loans to the State to fund the Poreporena Freeway (Schedule 7B) and Eda Ranu (Schedule 7C). In 1997, NPF borrowed K50 million from the PNGBC to construct the NPF Tower (increased to K59 million in 1999 – Schedule 2B, paragraph 13.15).

    Although a few of these investments were moderately successful (namely, Schedule 4H, OML and Schedule 4F, NML) most of them resulted in massive losses for the NPF.

    Failures of management Throughout the period 1995-1999, common features of the equity investments included management’s failure to keep the NPF board informed of its activities and management making decisions in excess of their delegated authority.

    Management made many investments without ever specifically advising the Board of Trustees.

    The main responsibility for such matters lies with the managing directors, Mr Kaul and Henry Fabila and with the deputy general manager and investment manager Mr Wright, all of whom committed frequent breaches of their fiduciary or common law duties. These events are chronicled in detail in the relevant Schedules to this Report.

    Failures of the Trustees The trustees must also bear responsibility for failing to oversee and control the management. Even when the trustees were eventually informed of management’s unauthorised activities, they failed to criticise or reprimand.

    Also, had they bothered to examine the schedules of investments tabled at each board meeting, the trustees could have ascertained what was going on. Their failure to do so was a breach of their fiduciary duty to the members.

    Failure to report and breach of investment guidelines NPF was bound by Section 26(1) of the NPF Act to invest its funds only in accordance with the 1993 Investment Guidelines, as varied by Minister Haiveta in April 1996 (regarding overseas investment in equities listed on a stock exchange up to K1 million per transaction) (Schedule 1 paragraph 8.4 and Appendix 21). The NPF was also bound by Section 63(2)(b) of the PF(M) Act to maintain, update and report annually on a Five-Year Rolling Development Plan. It was also bound to report quarterly on all investment decisions and on investment performance annually (Executive Summary 1, paragraph 10). The NPF management and Board of Trustees failed to meet any of these requirements.

    Adhering to no expressed investment policy, NPF seems to have merely followed the gambler investor’s instincts of Mr Wright and Mr Copland and invested many millions of illegally borrowed funds in high-risk, volatile, non-earning PNG resource stock. It did this without independent expert advice. The advice it sometimes received from its share broker, Wilson HTM, was not independent, as Wilson HTM was itself benefiting from NPF’s high-risk buying spree (Schedule 4B paragraph 7.6).

    NPF management and trustees completely lost sight of the investment guidelines, as can be seen from the graphs and working documents appended to Schedule 1 as Appendix 24 NPF’s portfolio changed alarmingly from having only 8 per cent of its portfolio invested in high-risk equities in 1994, increasing to 20 per cent in 1995 which had risen to 58 per cent in 1996, 64 per cent in 1997 and 60 per cent in 1998.

    During the same period, debt as a percentage of net assets rose from 5 per cent in 1994 to 70 per cent in 1998. By that stage, because of NPF’s heavy illegal borrowings, the debt to equity ratio was 69.9 per cent.

  • Page 4 of 196

  • There was one fleeting attempt by managing director Mr Kaul to raise the awkward question of the disregarded Investment Guidelines in April 1996 (Schedule 1 paragraph 12.3.7).

    This warning was simply ignored by Mr Copland and Mr Wright, except that at the 104th board meeting in December 1996, the board resolved to seek amendments to the investment guidelines to distinguish between long term and speculative investments (paragraphs and

    It did not bother them that their expenditure of NPF funds on investments which were outside the investment guidelines, was illegal and was also a breach of their fiduciary duty as trustees, for which they could be personally liable. When William (Bill) Skate replaced Sir Julius Chan as prime minister in July 1997, Iairo Lasaro also replaced Mr Haiveta as the Minister responsible for the NPF.

    Financial crisis looming in 1998 By early 1998, there were signs that NPF was in financial trouble because of the extreme imbalance and volatility of its investment portfolio, its falling value and the increasing burden of the interest being paid on the loans.

    The chronic weaknesses in NPF’s governance continued with management under the control of Mr Kaul continuing to make significant decisions beyond their delegated powers and still failing to keep the NPF board properly informed on borrowings and investments. The trustees continued to give undue deference to chairman Copland and deputy managing director Noel Wright and failed their fiduciary duty to maintain supervision over management.

    As reports by the Auditor-General, PwC and KPMG (See Schedule 1 paragraphs 10.5.2 to 10.5.8) demonstrate, senior management was incompetent and failing in the basic duties of maintaining a proper system of accounts, maintaining proper records of member’s contributions and administering proper procedures for acquiring goods and services and disposing of assets (Schedule 1 and Schedule 9). There were also gross abuses of the payments of board fees and allowances (Schedule 1 paragraph 5.3.7 and and Appendixes 16 and 19 referred to where irregularities are described in detail regarding Trustees and officers). Appointment of Mr Skate’s protégé Henry Fabila as Managing Director In May 1998, Prime Minister Skate arranged for his good friend and former colleague at the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) Henry Fabila to replace Mr Kaul as managing director, thereby invoking a substantial wrongful termination payout (Schedule 1, paragraph Although Mr Fabila had experience as a former banker and public administrator, he did not succeed in injecting strict rules of governance and accountability into the NPF. He found himself powerless to control his deputy Mr Wright and unable to work with Mr Wright’s protector, chairman Copland.

    Together with Mr Leahy, he set about obtaining the removal of both men. Mr Fabila was also beholden to Prime Minister Skate for his job, which compromised his independence as managing director and trustee of the NPF.

    Meanwhile, the economic tide had turned well and truly against NPF. As described in executive summary 2E paragraph 13 and Appendix 5, the value of NPF’s substantial concentration of investments in PNG resource stock was tumbling, the interest rates were rising and the value of the kina was falling.

    NPF had used borrowed funds to acquire its risky equity portfolio and was obliged to pledge more and more of its assets to the banks as security for its increasing debt burden, as it had undertaken to maintain a very high ratio of security to debt with the banks (This is described in detail in Schedule 2E, paragraphs 3.2; 5 and 6).

    Banks seek to call in NPF’s debts – 1998

  • Page 5 of 196

  • The ANZ was becoming alarmed at the increasingly frequent breaches by NPF of its loan covenants and was demanding that NPF reduce the debt. The Asian economic crisis was in full swing and NPF had encumbered itself with the huge NPF Office Tower construction project, funded by a K50 million loan from the PNGBC. The project struck time-consuming trouble with the beneath ground foundations (Schedule 6, paragraphs 4.1-4.9 and executive summary 3.2) and chose to pay a K1.4 million acceleration payment to make up the lost time. Then the falling kina eroded into the profits of the construction company Kumagai Gumi Co Ltd (Kumagai), leading to a K6.6 million kina devaluation claim, which was settled by agreement at K3.3 million.

    As the construction costs mounted and the completion date blew out, NPF was faced with the fact that it had not secured in advance a single tenant and the demand for office space in Port Moresby was contracting with the economic crisis (The final cost of the Tower was K59.68 million).

    With the lender banks turning hostile towards the end of 1998, Mr Wright desperately sought to bring his impractical and misguided attempt for NPF to issue a $A54 million bond to completion, so as to raise much needed cash (Schedule 2F and see paragraph 9 below).

    Dismissal of Mr Copland and resignation of Mr Wright In September 1998, Mr Fabila’s attempt to rid himself of Mr Copland as chairman succeeded and he was terminated because he had long ago ceased to be an employer in PNG and was therefore no longer qualified to be a trustee. He was succeeded by Brown Bai, the newly appointed Secretary of DoF, as chairman. At the 115th NPF board meeting on November 6, 1998, the new chairman, Mr Bai, jolted the NPF management and trustees out of their apparent stupor by asking if they knew what they were doing.

    He asked how they intended to tell the members of the mounting losses then believed to be in excess of K40 million. The NPF Tower was incomplete and was suffering cost overruns. There was a cash crisis and Mr Wright was failing to bring the unworkable $A54 million bond to fruition. Mr Copland had gone and Mr Wright was forced to resign in January 1999.

    Also in January 1999, at Mr Bai’s instigation, PwC was commissioned to report upon NPF’s financial situation. Paul Marshall of PwC soon told the NPF board about the disastrous imbalance in the investment portfolio. NPF was trapped in a vicious circle caused by the tumbling value of its equity portfolio (which required more and more scrip to be pledged as security for the bank loans) and the rising interest rate burden on NPF’s massive debts to the banks, then running at more than K1 million per month.

    Even before his report was published, Mr Marshall was proactively negotiating with the banks and this led eventually to the commencement of the massive selldown of NPF’s assets agreed to by the NPF board by circular resolution in March 1999.

    While these attempts to save the financially stricken NPF were under way, others had a very different agenda.

    Appointment of Jimmy Maladina as Chairman of NPF orchestrated by Prime Minister Skate — January 1999 Prime Minister Skate had already decided to have Jimmy Maladina appointed as chairman of the NPF and this was known to both Mr Maladina and Mr Leahy by September 1998.

    The NPF Tower and Waigani land frauds In December 1998, Mr Maladina contacted Mr Tanaguchi of Kumagai, the NPF Tower construction company and put in motion a scheme, using that company, to defraud NPF of K2.5 million. In December 1998, Mr Skate directed Mr Bai to stand down as NPF chairman and nominate Mr Maladina in his place. This was done and Mr Maladina was appointed chairman on January 27, 1999.

  • Page 6 of 196

  • Together with Mr Leahy, they immediately arranged (by trickery) for the NPF board to reverse its previous decision and it resolved to purchase the Waigani Land (by purchasing shares in Waim No. 92 Pty Ltd which held the lease). This would bring a fraudulent profit of several million kina to Mr Maladina who secretly owned the shares in Waim No. 92 Pty Ltd. Thus, even prior to his appointment to the NPF board, Mr Maladina, in criminal association with NPF’s legal officer/corporate secretary, Mr Leahy, was involved in two attempted frauds against the NPF, concerning the NPF Tower (Schedule 6) and the Waigani Land (Schedule 5) both of which are reported upon at paragraphs 15.11 and 15.12 respectively, below. When news of the proposed sale of the Waigani Land to the NPF broke in the national press, Prime Minister Skate publicly forced the NPF to pull out of the deal.

    Full extent of NPF’s financial crisis emerges In February 1999, NPF engaged PwC to review its investment portfolio. In March, PwC reported on the volatile imbalance of NPF’s high-risk portfolio and the burden of the heavy borrowings.

    PwC was engaged to address the cash flow crisis and by mid-March, was discussing selldown of assets with the banks. The selldown strategy was approved by circular resolution and began immediately.

    The conspirators, meanwhile, were trying to sell 50 per cent of the NPF Tower to the PNG Harbours Board (PNGHB), thereby hoping to make a fraudulent commission (through Maurice Sullivan of PMFNRE) of 5 per cent aggregating K5 million (see Schedule 6, paragraph 13.1.4 and paragraph 15.11.1 below). By mid-year, Rod Mitchell had been appointed as general manager in place of Mr Wright, and John Jeffery had been newly appointed as a trustee. They were in close contact with Mr Marshall of PwC. Mr Bai, as Secretary of DoF, appointed a team of finance inspectors to inquire into the financial affairs of the NPF and to look at worrying aspects of the proposed Waigani Land deal, which were becoming public knowledge. To start with, Mr Fabila and Mr Leahy failed to co-operate with the finance inspectors, until threatened with serious consequences by Mr Bai.

    Around this time, the balance of power and the atmosphere at NPF headquarters began to change.

    A second PwC report was commissioned and the finance inspectors report was published and Mr Mitchell and Mr Jeffery raised questions about Mr Maladina and Mr Leahy in September 1999.

    At an October meeting of the NPF board, Mr Mitchell and Mr Jeffery tabled a special report on many irregularities, including the Waigani land deal. Mr Maladina sought, unsuccessfully, to block the meeting and did not attend.

    Complaints levelled at Mr Maladina and Mr Leahy Serious charges were levelled at both men, especially about their part in the Waigani land affair. This led eventually to the termination of their appointments as corporate secretary and chairman of NPF respectively. To conclude matters, KPMG were appointed by the Auditor-General to carry out an audit and report on the NPF as there was talk about a forced 50 per cent write down of memb