The noose tightens: Four Lae City Council workers arrested for fraud

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Lae City Council Office

Lae Police Fraud Squad have arrested four workers from the Lae City Council for the theft of more than K700,000.

Lae Metropolitan Superintendent, Anthony Wagambie said investigators have found credible evidence enough to charge four employees. Three are cashiers and one is the accountant.

The two male cashiers has been charged with misappropriation, abuse of office and false pretense for the amounts of K11,897.44 and K20,029.62 respectively.

One of the man also had a separate charge   for the misappropriation of K349,593.

A female cashier has had multiple charges laid for the misappropriation of funds totalling K348,000. A Lae City Council accountant has also been charged with four counts of misappropriation.

“I have been briefed by the Fraud Squad that they are also awaiting documentary evidence from the Morobe Provincial Administration Audit Office.

“This has been delaying further arrests,” Mr. Wagambie said. “Police have done all the ground work, only awaiting the Provincial Administration.

“I call on the Acting Provincial Administrator to ensure that there is cooperation so that this investigation can run smoothly.”

The arrests have happened in a space of two months.

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Why the special gift of dyslexia should be understood by PNG’s education system

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For many kids starting out in their first year of school, one in five will have learning difficulties. It’s not because they are ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid.’   They just may be dyslexic.

According to studies, dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population. The most obvious signs are difficulty in reading and writing.   Switching letters and numbers that look similar. For instance ‘p’ and ‘q’ or ‘9’ and ‘6.’

Dyslexic people don’t function well in structured environments. For many, the conventional classroom with teachers who don’t understand dyslexia is not a very kind place for them.

Mathematics can be extremely difficult. Reading out aloud can also be hard as the brain tends to read the word before then the word after. It takes intense concentration to write sets of numbers or to memorize a series.

I discovered much later that I did have something that ‘looked like dyslexia.’ I displayed nearly all the obvious symptoms and I had difficulty learning, even though my teachers said I was ‘smart.’ It was a struggle.

One of the  first challenge was when the teacher told us to  write  on three lines instead of  four,  in an exercise book. I wrote on four because I counted the space in between the lines.  Those were, technically, lines as well.

It didn’t stop there.

In high school, mathematical concepts were almost impossible. I stumbled through algebra, fractions and physics while at the same time trying to keep my dream of becoming a PNGDF pilot (which of course, needed mathematics.) It pained me to know that everyone else had no trouble learning.

Studying,  for a dyslexic mind,  can also be a major challenge. Concentration was indeed a rare commodity. Memorizing through repetition as many kids did was like climbing an impossible incline.

I won’t go into the science of it all. But put simply,   the dyslexic brain processes information very differently.

For dyslexic people who survived school,   they will attest to the fact that they had to devise their own methods of learning.

For me, learning meant breaking theoretical concepts into mentally visualized building blocks. Visualization and imagination happens constantly in the brain. It is a nonstop activity that is, in some instances, ‘educated’ out of them in school.

I found that music and beat patterns are vital if dyslexics are to survive the rigors of the unfriendly education system. For example, you rap the periodic table to memorize the elements. Spelling without a beat or without breaking a word into patterns (or ‘building blocks’) was and still is difficult.   Each word has to be pictured and spelled or read. Numbers are remembers for the patterns and the beats they ‘produce.’

Colors are interesting by the way. A lot of dyslexic people don’t remember colors. They remember the emotions associated with the colors they recall.

The advantage for me is in languages. I don’t memorize words or phrases. Like everything else, languages contain building blocks. And like add-ons in Mozilla, they form the basis of wonderful imaginative tapestries that can be created.

Monotony is painful. Structures are obstacles.

Our minds are constantly at work to discover patterns or formulas that can be used to ‘hack a system.’ The universe belongs to the dyslexic mind because everything has a beat, a pattern and a formula. It just needs to be found.

Over the years, I found that you can condense journalism, camera and editing training into a formula that can be used to teach people who have no prior knowledge of the media.

Everything is disassembled into ‘building blocks, patterns formulas and beats.   The important thing is it has to be done in order to understand it.

The dyslexic mind also thinks in terms of strategies. Those strategies do not exist on one level.   That strategy is visual and broad no matter how small the tangible evidence is to others. The images in the mind are in multiple dimensions and exist on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Action is instinctive and largely misunderstood because the strategy is a jumbled mess that cannot be easily deciphered.

Much later, I found so many others on the internet who are also dyslexic.

Steve Jobs, Apple

Bill Gates, Microsoft

Henry Ford, Ford

Ted Turner, CNN

Bill Hewlitt, Hewlitt and Packard

Richard Branson, Virgin

That is the complexity of thought and emotion that a dyslexic child is trying to express but can’t. I do hope it helps parents who struggle with their children’s dyslexia.

I can tell you, it is not a curse, it is a huge gift that needs to be appreciated an nurtured by parents a teachers.

 

Any shutdown of Facebook in PNG will affect businesses, policing & disaster reporting

FB

Maybe it was a slip of the tongue or a misinterpreted statement… But there is no doubt that whatever it was that the Minister responsible for ICT, Sam Basil, said has created a storm now being reported on global media outlets.

While some commentators are screaming ‘Fake News,’ others are taking it all in as a fact.

What gave this statement its legitimacy was its publication on one of Papua New Guinea’s two dailies – the Post Courier.   The online version of the story has been quoted numerous times that has become the top story out of Papua New Guinea in the last 24 hours.

The country doesn’t usually make it into the tech pages of websites, but it has.

Matt Novak from Gizmodo wrote: “The (PNG) government also said that it’s exploring the creation of its own social media site to replace Facebook.”

John Russel from Techcrunch: “… the Facebook ban — however delicious it may sound given recent events — is not confirmed for Papua New Guinea. It remains a possibility once Basil has liaised with police.”

The suggestion to shut down Facebook is dangerous on many levels.

Firstly, it places PNG on the back foot.   It is a highly embarrassing position to be in as members of APEC discuss the region’s economic future with e-commerce and social media being a pivotal focus of the talks.

Any shutdown of Facebook for any length of time, is contrary to the spirit of the discussions where wider access to ICT forms the basis of future economic policies.

In Papua New Guinea, small businesses are starting to thrive. Their main avenue to sell to a wider customer base? Facebook pages.   Not websites.   Website developers charge a minimum of K2500 for a basic site. It is too big an amount for small businesses.

Not one to mince his words, the Director of the Institute of National Affairs , Paul Barker told the Fiji Times: “It would be a travesty if PNG sought to close down Facebook during the APEC month, making PNG seem rather foolish, as it would be both an attack on embracing technology, undermining the information era and mechanisms for accountability, but also damaging business and welfare.

“Facebook is no longer just a platform for chatting to friends and relatives, and exchanging photos, it’s now a critical tool for information sharing and social auditing, and also a major platform for business, especially micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs).”

In Lae City where I live, Facebook is a primary means of reporting crimes to

the police. The Lae Police Metropolitan Command has a Facebook page linked to its crime reporting systems and toll free number. It is an integral part of policing.

In Papua New Guinea, Facebook has become the primary disaster reporting tool used by rural communities.

In February, when the Highlands was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, the first pictures of the damage and deaths were posted on Facebook. Yet it took at least two weeks before the National Disaster Center began collating the information that was readily available within 20 minutes of the disaster.

It is good that this debate is happening now instead of later.

Advice from a building expert: How to cut costs when building a home in Papua New Guinea

kit home

So like many others I’ve embarked on another  a journey of self-learning.  This time it’s  building and architecture.

It can be  mind boggling if you don’t know where to look and who to talk to.  For some,  the simplest option is to have an architect design your house and have a builder construct it.  Or get a kit home. In PNG, this is expensive but marketed as ‘cheap.’

Being me, I wanted to understand the whole thing.

So it began with lots of consultations and finally, I was introduced to a brilliant builder (I can’t mention his name because I don’t have his permission to do so yet.)

He walked me through the intricacies of building and construction which I found highly valuable to me.  Some of the tips he shared are obvious but to other people. But for people  like me who work with cameras and television, it was a GREAT help.

Below are the tips I am sharing based on his advice:

  1. Kit homes are overpriced  – While kit homes may seem the most convenient option for many Papua New Guineans,  he says,  companies charge at least a third to double on the the material costs to make a profit.   The temptation to buy a kit home is  always there. But suppliers won’t let you buy in  packed portions so cost  is manageable you.  They prefer a lump sum payment which, in many cases, in unaffordable.
  2. Use the designs but buy your own materials IN STAGES – The way to reduce  cost,  is to  get good advice from someone who can give you a material listing in stages based on a design.    Start with footings (posts, cement bags, gravel). Then, move on to the bearers and joists (new words I learned along the way :D). Followed by the walls then roof. You will find that metal  house stumps (posts)  and cement bags  are not as expensive as many think. With innovative transport options ie. using family and friends, a lot can be achieved.
  3. Don’t let people over charge you on designs – You can easily find and buy designs online. They are arguably cheaper than getting an architect design. These days, designs are available online.  This makes owner builder options very attractive.
  4. Advice is usually free – Most of the advice given is usually free if it’s from a friend or family.
  5. This advice is primarily for people building on your own land separate from an urban municipal setting. 

Every year, during Mother’s Day, I shed a tear | By Pearson Vetuna

pearson

My mother,  from Rabuana Village,  married a Methodist pastor from Ratavul just before the Japanese invaded Rabaul in January/February 1942.

My father’s first posting after graduating,  as a pastor,  was to Talvat village where the Japanese arrested him in late 1943 early 1944. He  become a Japanese POW after someone reported him of having a Morse code booklet in his possession.

They were  held in appalling conditions in a cave at Tunnel Hill.

While he was in prison, my mother gave birth to me which meant mum had to cope with a first child and running for cover when war planes came roaring in.

I can only imagine what my mother, young and newly married and giving birth to her first born during the bombing of Rabaul, granted liberation was around the corner but she wasn’t to know that yet, was experiencing.

My father passed on in 2009 while mother left us in 2002.

So on Mother’s Day every year, I shed a tear for my mum. Both she and father are gone but they will live on in my heart, especially mother, for mums the world over, are incredibly tenacious yet loving and caring no matter the situation.

So thank you mum. Happy Mothers Day.”

Huonville resumes classes but questions over Government promised TFF funding remain

When the PNG Fire Service and the Morobe Building Board, condemned six buildings at Huonville Primary School, it came as no surprise for the school administration.

For the last five years, the School struggled with funding.

The Tuition Fee Free Education (TFF) Policy compounded the problem when parents were told that the National Government would pay, in full, tuition and maintenance costs for schools in the country.

Under the TFF policy, the infrastructure funds are paid to Districts which then distribute the funds to schools. District officials told parents at a school meeting, those funds have not been received since 2013.

Huonville’s Principal, Mr. Willie Vilakiva, said the school’s records show that there was no money for maintenance paid to the school accounts since 2013.

So why weren’t the funds paid? No satisfactory answers have been forthcoming.

Mr. Vilakiva is a veteran teacher who taught numerous generations students in Morobe over the years (me and my siblings included). He has seen the good days of education and now, with TFF, he has virtually no funds to rebuild a school that is literally crumbling.

Five weeks ago, parents and teachers raised K20,000 and began building 14 temporary classrooms. On Sunday (20/05/18), gravel was put onto the floors and on Monday, the kids carried their desks into the classrooms to begin school.

These are the realities that we have to contend with.

The TFF isn’t working as it should, there is a shortage of funds and the contractors tasked with the delivery of school materials aren’t getting the job done efficiently.

You can ask Huonville and other schools, and they will tell you the same story.

On the positive side, the parents and teachers showed that they could do the seemingly difficult with very limited funding. In five weeks, all the classrooms were completed.

Parents who worked for Barlow Industries sought and got a company donation of iron sheeting and other materials for the construction.

Later after much publicity, the Morobe Provincial Government, provided emergency funding of K100,000.

Huonville still needs to replace the condemned classrooms and they need more than K4 million to do that.

Landowners threaten to close 5 fish processing plants over unmet project benefits

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Thomas Ahi – CEO, BUP

Landowning clans in Lae are threatening to close down  five fish processing plants  if the government doesn’t  review the existing agreements that govern them.

 
The clans,  which include the Ahi and the Busulum,  say they’ve been cheated of development benefits.
 
Since the agreements were signed four years ago, they have received  K5000 per year for the five portions of land they own.
 
The threat comes after three years of  complicated wrangling with the government and the companies over landowner benefits.
 
If the landowners have it their way,  Majestic Seafoods,  Frabelle and  three other fish processing  factories will be  forced to shut down next  Tuesday.
 
Landowner company, BUP development, are calling of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to review the existing agreements  so that  they receive  more in terms of landowner benefits.   
 
After four years, it has now become clear, landowners got  a bad  deal.  
 
The landowners  are paid  a total of K5000  annually for the five land portions they leased to the companies.  The deal was negotiated by the provincial administration  at the start o the projects.
 
Apart from a 2 million kina premium payment   made several years ago, the landowners receive little else.  They are also not party to agreements between the state and the fish processing companies.
 
They also don’t know what the terms of the state agreement are.
 
The landowner company since issued a 7 day  notice to the government to  come  Lae for negotiations.
 
They are demanding K20 million in compensation as well as  a review of the memorandum of Agreement they signed with the companies.