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Saturday, 4 January 2014

From Papua New Guinea Blogs: MINISTER DAVID ARORE’S STRONG IMPACT ON PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S HIGHER EDUCATION

Original: Papua New Guinea Blogs: MINISTER DAVID ARORE’S STRONG IMPACT ON PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S HIGHER EDUCATION
Saturday, January 4, 2014
PNGBLOGS


Middle class professionals from “awaraland” have complained quietly for years about Ijivitari MP David Arore. Now that the criticisms have spread nationally and touch PNGBLOGS, we did some research and interviews to explore why they have surfaced.


Earning the Position of HERST Minister
David Arore was a high school teacher, first elected to parliament in 2007. He knew he could offer his loyalty to the highest bidder by running as an independent. PM Michael Somare made the best offer, Arore accepted, and ended up being appointed Deputy Minister for Education.

However, by July 2010 the ambitious Arore was upset by Somare’s reluctance to give him a higher post and became one of six NA members to defect to the Opposition. This move failed to topple the government and Arore returned to government. A year later, as PM Somare rested helplessly in a Singapore hospital, Arore defected again at the time when Peter O’Neill successfully moved a vote of no confidence and became PM. O’Neill gave Arore the reward Somare had denied him. Arore became Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (HERST).

Questionable Qualifications For Leading the HERST Ministry
Heading some kind of education ministry fits Arore ‘s background as a teacher by profession (Martyr’s Memorial High School). Unfortunately, his chance to get higher education ended with his expulsion from Massey University in New Zealand for disorderly drunken behaviour. As a result, Mr Arore has little experience in any aspect of higher education and is less qualified than several other MPs currently in government.


Connections to Don Polye
Arore was one of the first MPs to join Don Pomb Polye’s new Triumph Heritage Empowerment (THE) party. Contesting the election under THE, Mr Arore became a lucky beneficiary of O’Neill and Polye’s K500 million supplementary budget, a national debt measure purposely misdirected away from the National Planning Office, which became the secret (possibly legal) means of funding the 2012 campaigns for PNC and THE.


Repeated Allegations of Corruption
David Arore is repeatedly accused of corruption. Like many in his position, he escapes conviction even when there’s evidence. The first allegations came after the 2007 election, when his win was challenged. The court of disputes ordered a recount and declared Arore the winner.
In 2010, an Oro Province investigation (see: http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/mp-arores-piggy-bank-a-sorry-tale-of-corruption/) revealed numerous activities that allowed Arore to steal around K2.5 million from district grants to benefit himself and his family and to pay personal debts. No prosecution, no conviction.

The 2012 election brought new charges against Arore, wh was able to campaign full of cash, thanks to O’Neill’s and Polye’s cunning supplemental budget. After the election, formal charges were laid against him for bribery and graft related to paying off electoral officials Paul Kamani and Elliot Damuni Tale. Arore was forced to temporarily step down from HERST, with Don Polye temporarily filling in. In late June, Magistrate Ignatius Kurei dismissed charges against Arore, citing insufficient evidence. “Insufficient evidence” is used often today in PNG to free accused public figures in exchange for secret bribes given to magistrates (same tactic used in 2013 in Lae national court to get charges dropped against former Unitech VC Misty Baloiloi and other staff charged with fraud and conspiracy).

Arore resumed being HERST Minister but shortly found himself in the news again, accused of bypassing government procedure in 2011 when requesting K5 million to pay Pavilon Construction (a logging company) to build a road in Oro. Governor Gary Juffa pointed out that the company was unregistered and Arore submitted no information regarding qualifications or ownership. Arore told Juffa on EM-TV to stop investigating, offering a defence that ignored Juffa’s main point about the company not being legal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNxKFiEMPNc).

David Arore has learnt to use intermediaries to solicit bribes for him so that he can deny involvement if there is any attempt to trap and convict him. He can deny the bribe was his idea.

Arore Loyalty Reward Programme -- Cash, Pigs and Booze
In Oro Province, David Arore has a wide reputation for drinking and vote buying. At election time he distributes hundreds of SP cartons and plenty of cash and pigs.

Leading up to the 2012 elections, Arore ran a K45,000 guns for cash program to buy the loyalty of local gangs so they would intimidate anyone he learnt was complaining about him in Popondetta. The scam was exposed when it was seen that only hastily made pop guns and broken firearms were surrendered.

Perhaps because he spends so much money buying votes and favours, Arore’s large house in Popondetta remains unfinished despite years of construction. The conspicuous absence of window louvres contrasts against the nice vehicles he parks around the house.


Endless Parties in Moresby
Mr Arore enjoys spreading Oro’s ‘cowboy country’ reputation by putting on a cowboy hat on weekends and drinking himself silly in Moresby’s clubs and pubs, nearly always creating a nuisance, and responsible for many stories of womanising. Some say that his “I’m going to die anyway” attitude comes from being HIV-AIDS positive.

Arore’s passionate love of booze, girls, gambling and money made him a natural ally of Unitech Professor Narayan Gehlot, the foreigner charged with misappropriating K675,000 and terminated from Unitech in early December 2012. Shortly after he was witnessed at Moresby’s Lamana Hotel, paying for David Arore’s drinks and pokie playing, and blaming VC Albert Schram for his sacking. When the Arore-Gehlot connection went public, Unitech staff rep Micah Vines demanded Arore’s resignation on EM-TV. Arore not only survived but joined in Gehlot’s vendetta against VC Schram which has begun eroding PNG’s reputation in international academic circles.

Empty Promises – David Arore’s Growing Legacy As HERST Minister
Arore shows little personal interest in fulfilling his promises as HERST Minister:
- “Strengthen the quality of higher education so as to meet international and industry standards.” ONLY AN EXISTING ACCREDITATION PROJECT
- “Review the current student support scheme (TESAS) to reflect the true market unit cost of higher education.” STILL NO RELIEF TO STUDENTS
- “Through the Ministry’s Maintenance and Rehabilitation PIP funded program, state universities’ are undergoing maintenance of infrastructure and labs are being re-equipped with much needed teaching and learning equipment.” NO RESULTS
- “continue rehabilitation and refurbishment of classrooms, libraries, and research labs.” NO RESULTS
- “I intend to rehabilitate staff and student accommodation.” NO RESULTS

Hiding His Incompetency As HERST Minister
The Minister has a belligerent, demanding personality, but fortunately is often absent from HERST. His incompetency is effectively hidden from public view by the output from hardworking, competent HERST managers under him who do as told, including staying out of politics.


The Arore Legacy For Higher Education
Government analysts worry that PNG’s declining universities, rising tuition, and poor employment prospects are ingredients for national unrest by the middle class.

In 2010, former PM Rabbie Namaliu and Australian economist Ross Garnaut produced a report that warned of the quickening decline of PNG’s 4 public universities. They recommended immediate radical steps to reverse the trend, including a massive funding increase. Australia agreed to help this challenge through a major donor program.

However Arore decided to go for PNG government funding, which he knows has lax oversight compared to the careful monitoring of foreign aid: “seeking Cabinet approval for a soft loan of K2 billion at 1% interest rate to drastically revamp the higher education sector.”

“I can effectively rebuild Technical Education through my Ministry’s Project Unit if my Brother Minister for Planning gives me the required PIP funds because I have a proven project management system where funds are disbursed directly to suppliers of building materials and not all to the contractors.”

While the government resisted these Arore pleas, the Australians decided to put their agreed to initiative on hold. Inside sources say a big reason is the reputation of Minister Arore.

Overall it appears that Peter O’Neill is willing to let unique opportunities for improving PNG higher education be lost, possibly forever, so that David Arore stays happy and remains pat of the Prime Minister’s secure political power base.

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