39-year-old Jeffery Yakopya, the former Assistant Secretary-Economic Branch of the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, was found guilty to paying his own company K5 million to build three Bailey bridges in the Komo-Margarima district, Hela province. Only one bridge was built.
The offence was committed in July 2010 when Yakopya, on behalf of Niugini Star Transport Limited, a company he incorporated himself, submitted a project proposal to the department valued at K14,609,126.03.
The proposal was for road projects from Yahama to Pundaga (stage 1 and 2) and for three bridge projects for Tundaka/Wage, Lapae and Guria bridges in the Margarima District of Southern Highlands province, now Hela province.
The contract was awarded by the Department of National Planning under the Public Private Partnership or Public Investment Program.
From the proposal, he received K5 million in Nov 2010, after his company was awarded the contract in July 2010, during his term as the Assistant Secretary Economic Branch with the Department of National Planning and Monitoring.
Yakopya pleaded guilty to one count of misappropriation and was convicted accordingly on July 15, 2016.
Initially he pleaded not guilty to the offence and a trial was conducted at the Waigani National Court, which Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika presided over.
However, halfway through the trial, the court indicated to Yakopya that the only way to verify if all the three bridges were built was for the court to visit the sites of the three bridges.
Yakopya then decided to change his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to misappropriating monies in relation to two un-built bridges. There is evidence that only one bridge was completed.
Sir Gibbs, in sentencing him, said public servants are employed by the government and appointed to very senior positions to serve the people of Papua New Guinea and not to steal from them.
The role of public servants is to implement government decisions to deliver the goods and services to the people of this country and not to go into business themselves and run those businesses.
“I have decided not to give the prisoner the benefit of serving a non-custodial term. Honesty is a virtue of human character which we all must strive to attain, maintain and retain or keep forever in our individual lives through to adulthood and to old age,” Sir Gibbs stated.
“In this case, you failed to be honest even when the matter came on for trial.”
(Loop PNG file picture.)