Monday, October 25, 2010


(Note to the recipients of these documents: The attachments to the main document are numerous and quite lengthy. It is recommended that the main document alone be read to get an overall understanding of the situation as it stands. The attachments can then be read and incorporated – they are highlighted for convenience to return to).

To Whom It May Concern

This report and documents have been sent you because Commissioner Gabriel Taloikwai and I want others to know what is happening in the shared Office of the Guadalcanal Land Commission and the RIPEL Commission.

We hope that the matters that are being brought to your attention will now be thoroughly investigated and controls put in place as a safeguard against such things happening in future.

These Commissions of Inquiry are so important for the Solomon Islands but they are being impeded by corruption and obstruction. These have resulted in delays to progress and significant increases in the cost of the Commissions to the people of the Solomon Islands. The matters presented below cannot be remedied by either Commissioner Gabriel Taloikwai or myself (Counsel Assisting). In order for these Commissions to conclude their business and provide the government with credible recommendations, urgent action is required to investigate and address the issues of corruption and obstruction.

Arrival in Honiara

I started with the Guadalcanal Land and the RIPEL Commissions on Inquiry (COI) in the last week of October 2009. One of the first things Chairman Brunton asked by to do was to draft an amended Commission of Inquiry Act for both Commissions so that the Secretary became responsible for the financial accounts of the Commissions and not the Commissioners. This meant changing the word “Commission” in para 7 of the Land COI and para 8 in the RIPEL COI to “Secretary”. It appeared to be a major concern of Chairman Brunton’s and he was anxious to have the changes made as soon as possible.

I drafted the amendments and presented them to SPM, Jerry Manele, as I had been instructed to do but the changes were never made.

My Private Car and Petrol

When I arrived back in Honiara to join the Commissions of Inquiry last year, I still had my private vehicle here. It had been looked after by a friend after I left the ODPP.

When I drove it to the Heritage Park Hotel where I was to stay, the key broke off in the ignition after I had turned it off. I went to the Hotel’s reception and asked whether they knew of a mechanic who could have a look at it over the weekend because Solomon Motors workshop was not open on weekends.

A short time later, Loretta Palmer (who is the COI Secretarial Manager and also HR Manager at Heritage Park) came to see me with her husband, Glen Hunts, who is the Logistics Officer at the COI. This was the first time I had met them and I thought they were very friendly, extremely helpful people and it seemed nothing was too much trouble for them. They said they would arrange for my car to be fixed on the following Monday and provide transport for me to get to work until it was fixed.

By lunchtime Monday, my car was fixed and I had been given a new key. I told both Loretta and Glen to give me the account for it when it came in and I would fix it up. However, despite repeated requests, I was never given the account.

A short time later, during the first two to three weeks of November, Glen Hunts came and asked me whether my private car could be used as a back up vehicle for the COI because he had to have his own (hired to the COI) repaired. After his vehicle was repaired he returned my keys to me and made a point of telling me that he had filled my car up with petrol.

Fake Account - $12,500 paid by Finance for Flash Drives

Chairman Brunton went on leave a couple of weeks after I commenced with the COI and was away for four weeks. About two weeks after he went, RIPEL Commissioner, Gabriel Taloikwai, showed me some invoices for flash drives bought by the COI. There were two invoices for 10 (8+2) flash drives totalling $2,950 and another invoice for 10 flash drives totalling $12,500. Gabriel explained to me that the smaller amount of $2,950 was the correct price charged and that the other one for $12,500 was a fake invoice that Finance had paid out on and debited to the COI.

Gabriel asked me to keep this information confidential and I gave him my assurance that I would. I was instructed to try and obtain the financial expenditure records of the Commissions and was eventually able to do this. The amount of $12,500 discussed above for the fake invoice, appeared on the Expenditure Report (GA3) of the Land Commission in October 2009 (Refer Attachment “A”)..

I had recently been given a small red flash drive by office staff and went to the main office to ask if there were any more of them. Lynda Sahu said there were two left and got one out and showed me. It had a yellow sticker on it showing a price of $250. Lynda said the COI had bought 10 of them. Knowing it had been impossible to get any office supplies because of a lack of funds, I asked how we managed to buy them. Lynda said that if we needed anything urgently, we could ask Jack Kwai to buy things and he would put in a claim to Finance to be reimbursed. She confirmed it was Jack Kwai who had bought the flash drives on this occasion.

I later checked the prices of similar flash drives in office supply stores and they ranged from $295 to $330 ie nowhere near the $1,250 price (x 10) paid by Finance on the fake invoice so somebody pocketed or split around $10,000 on this transaction.

Circumstances Surrounding Obtaining Expenditure Reports (GA3)

I initially had a meeting with staff from Finance to find out who I should approach about obtaining the GA3 reports and, after a lengthy process, I finally received the GA3 and GA6 (cash position) reports for both Commissions of Inquiry. Copies of these were distributed to the Commissioners and Secretary.

The next morning I noticed Glen Hunts and Jack Kwai huddled over the GA3 report in the Secretary’s office. That afternoon I received a phone call which was put through to me without any warning of who was on the phone. The man told me his name was Ferol Wilfred and he was angry and threatening. He wanted to know where on my duty statement it said that I had authority to look into the finances of the Commissions of Inquiry. He said it had nothing to do with me, that I should mind my own business and that any further interference would not be tolerated.

Shaken by what I had just experienced, I went to inform Commissioner Taloikwai about what had happened. On the way to his office, I heard Loretta Palmer in the main office laughing and saying “It serves Counsel right, now she’ll have to deal with Ferol. See how she likes that.”

In coming weeks, the animosity directed towards me became so bad that Commissioner Taloikwai held a meeting of all staff to explain that he had directed me to obtain the financial reports because he had concerns that the COI has been wasteful in its spending in the past and we needed to be more careful in future.

Bolomona Field Trip, Expenditure, and Threats

The Land Commissioners and I had been discussing various ways that we could gather evidence about customs regarding land in Guadalcanal. We had decided in the first instance to get COI staff to accompany Chief Roselyn Nunuvia to interview Tribal Chiefs in the Bolomona Region. Questionnaire forms were designed and produced so that they could be filled in when meeting with the Chiefs.

The afternoon before the trip to Bolomona was to commence, Secretary Chris Waiwori and Glen Hunts came into my office and told me that they had been unable to get the cash advance of $48,000 they had requested for the trip because no funds were available and the trip could not proceed. They asked me to ring the Accountant General, Sandra Hargreaves, because she was the only person who had the authority to release funds. I rang Sandra and explained to her how important the trip was and how a lot of planning and effort had gone into arranging appointments with the Chiefs.

Sandra asked me what was the minimum amount needed for the trip. Glen and Chris said $41,000 and Sandra agreed to provide that amount but made it clear there would be no more funds provided for anything.

The trip commenced on 24 November and concluded on 4 December but a couple of days after it commenced, Glen Hunts came into my office and asked me to authorise a cash payment of $4,000 for catering for the Kadavu Village in Ghaobata. He wanted me to okay the invoice and sign it. I refused saying it was nothing to do with me and that he should get it authorised by the Secretary. However, Glen was persistent in trying to get me to sign it, saying I had the authority to approve it and that the Chiefs were waiting for payment and so on and so forth. I made it very clear that I did not have the authority and would not be signing. Glen punched his fist on my desk and then left my office.

The week after the trip to Bolomona had finished, the two Land Commissioners and I were discussing whether the trip had been successful and planning what should be done for the next region. We were very conscious of trying to keep costs to a minimum and wanted to see the break-up of expenses for Bolomona as it was the very first trip and would give us a feel for what was needed for the other regions. To this end I asked Linda Sahu in the office to get the break-up from Glen Hunts.

A few minutes later, Glen Hunts burst into my office. He started thumping my desk in a menacing way. He told me that what those funds had been spent on was a matter for Treasury and that I should not be interfering in Treasury matters. He told me to be very careful. He also told me that nobody liked me and that I should go back to Australia.

After he left my office, I went and relayed what had happened to Commissioners Tahi and Rabuka. We concluded that Glen must have something to hide because it was the only logical explanation.

That night I got a phone call around midnight and a man whose voice I did not recognise said “we know where you are.”

I was not going to be bullied into not getting the break-up of the Bolomona expenses from Glen and kept getting office staff to follow up on it. About five days later Loretta Palmer gave me the details (see Attachment “B”). Note that all staff had returned by 4 December so I don’t know why there were any more expenses after that.

Details of Bolomona Expenses

The itemised break-up of expenses showed there was still a balance of $27,909 unspent ie $48,000 originally requested, and only $13,391 of the $41,300 that was provided had been spent. So what was going to happen to the remaining $27,909 of Government monies until the Commissioners and I queried it?

Imprest Account

Given the reaction in this case, it appears to me that when money is advanced from the imprest account there is no control in place to make sure that any unspent money must be returned to the Government. Hence, much more money than is needed is requested because there is no check. Presumably, this is why Glen Hunts was so angry about having to provide details of what was actually spent.

Since there have been quite a few more of these field trips, I would strongly suggest that the Imprest Account is fully audited under the supervision of the Accountant-General to see whether there are receipts for expenditure and whether any unspent monies have actually ever been returned.

Chairman Brunton Returns from Leave

Chairman Brian Brunton returned to Honiara on Saturday 12 December and requested that I have lunch with him and the two other Land Commissioners at the Taj Mahal the next day.

One of the very first things I was asked by Brian was whether I had been filling up my private car on the COI account. I was angry at the question and explained that Glen Hunts had filled it back up after my vehicle had been borrowed for COI business for a few days.

He then went on to ask me what the situation with the accounts and Gabriel Taloikwai was about. I replied that Gabriel wished to discuss the matter with him personally and that, until such time, I could not discuss it. He pressed me again for details saying it was COI business and that he and the two Commissioners present had a right to know about all COI business. I pointed out that as a legal professional, I was bound to hold a confidence given and I would not be discussing the matter even if he chose to beat me.

I did, however, make him aware of the threats and abuse I had received from Glen Hunts over the imprest funds.

The next day (Mon 14 Dec), Brian Brunton met with Gabriel Taloikwai and was fully briefed on the situation with the fake documents being paid by Finance. Gabriel also told him that a brief with all the documents attached had been provided to the Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM), Jerry Manele.

A day or so later, Brian Brunton called me into a meeting with the two Land Commissioners, Stephen Tahi and Manoa Rabuka. He advised us that he had discussed the matter with Jerry Manele and that he had passed on Gabriel’s documents to the Police. I interrupted him at that point and asked if they had been provided to the Police or the Corruption Squad. He replied “Corruption Squad.”

In a one-on-one meeting with Brian Brunton later that day, I told him that I was now very suspicious about the invoice for the repairs to my car. I said that I would continue my efforts to try and get hold of that invoice because I now believed that Glen Hunts was involved in the corruption going on in the COI.

Invoice for My Car Repairs – Motor Marine Pty Ltd

I stepped up efforts to get a copy of the account for repairs to my vehicle and eventually got hold of Jack Kwai on his mobile. Jack told me that he had given the invoice to Glen Hunts to pass onto me over a week ago so I got the office staff to phone Glen and tell him that I was aware Jack had given it to him and that I wanted it asap.

A photocopy of that invoice from Motor Marine Pty Ltd (Attachment “C”) was later given to me by office staff. The invoice was for $12,605 which was made up of a charge of $105 for a key and a charge for labour of $12,500. I rang Solomon Motors to find out what their hourly labour charge would be for such a repair and was told $55-$65 per hour so the labour charge should have been a few hundred dollars not $12,500. Someone (presumably Glen Hunts) had added about $12,000 to this invoice and managed to get it paid by Finance almost immediately. It is shown in the RIPEL GA3 Expenditure Report in October 2009 (Refer page 2 Attachment “D”).

I gave a copy of the invoice to Gabriel Taloikwai and Brian Brunton. I told Brian Brunton that it was prima facie evidence of corruption by Glen Hunts and that I would resign from the COI unless he made the right decision about Glen.

Brian said he would do the right thing but was concerned that Loretta Palmer would probably pull her services and staff out of the COI in support of Glen. He said that an allegation had been made about Glen in the last COI (April 2006 Riots) and Loretta had pulled out her services in support of Glen on that occasion. He was also concerned that doing the right thing would put his living arrangements with Glen and Loretta in jeopardy but said he was prepared to move out of their house if necessary. (Note – Brian Brunton rents the top floor of a house that Glen and Loretta live in on the ground floor).

I was doing some photocopying in the office a bit later on and saw the original of the Motor Marine Pty Ltd invoice for my car on Loretta’s desk so I took it and gave it to Brian Brunton who said he would give it to Peter Marshall.

A company search of Motor Marine Pty Ltd revealed that the directors of the company are from Ysabel Province. Glen Hunts is also from Ysabel.

Meeting with Peter Marshall

The next day Brian Brunton told me he’d had a very brief meeting with Peter Marshall and had given him the Motor Marine Pty Ltd invoice. He told me that Peter Marshall had said that this type of thing was “compounding corruption” and they had a longer appointment scheduled on Monday 21 December to discuss the matter further.

Missing Documents

I wanted to put my own brief into the Corruption Squad so that any investigation now also included the invoice and payment for my car. I asked Gabriel for a copy of the documents he had sent to Jerry Manele but he told me he hadn’t kept a copy. He suggested I get a copy from the SPM’s office. However, when I went down to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Jerry Manele’s staff couldn’t find anything and couldn’t recall getting anything from Gabriel Taloikwai. They rang Mr Manele on his mobile and asked him where they were but he told them that had hadn’t received anything from Commissioner Taloikwai.

When I returned to the COI office, Gabriel explained to me that he had printed out his letter to the SPM (Attachment “E”) (he stood there watching it printing), had attached the documents to it and put everything into a large envelope himself. He said he had then asked Cynthia Wickham in the office to go with a police officer straight down to the PMO and give the envelope to Jerry Manele. Gabriel said he watched Cynthia go with the police officer.

So the documents were somehow intercepted before they got to the SPM by someone at the PMO.

Gabriel and I both suspected Loretta had known where Cynthia was going and had somehow arranged for the envelope to be intercepted at the PMO but we weren’t sure. It wasn’t until some months later that both Gabriel and I, on separate occasions, discovered that any printing commands from our computers were set up to go through Loretta’s computer before they were printed.

I discovered this one night when I wanted to print notes out for a hearing the next day and I could not get anything to print. When I asked the IT person Ken Manu what the problem was, he said that Loretta’s computer had to be on before I could print anything because my computer was set up to send all my printing to her computer before it printed out. I told him that I wanted this detour removed and my computer’s print commands to go directly to the printer and not through Loretta’s computer.

So Loretta would have been able to find out from her computer just what Gabriel was printing out. She was probably alerted by the fact that Gabriel was standing by the printer watching his document being printed out so that nobody could see what it was.

At the time we discovered the documents did not get to the SPM, Gabriel told me it would be very difficult to get a replacement copy of them because the owner of the business they came from lived overseas and the young lady that had assisted him to get the copies originally provided, had been threatened and put in fear for her life. He told me that the people doing these things were very nasty and dangerous people and that I should be careful and not stay in the building by myself.

I knew then that Brian Brunton had lied to me when he said Jerry Manele had passed those documents onto the Corruption Squad because Jerry Manele had never received them. I also wondered whether he had lied about passing the invoice for my car onto Peter Marshall but I couldn’t do anything further at that stage because I was flying out the next day on leave.
No Progress on Work for Counsel

When I returned from leave, Glen Hunts was still employed at the COI. I expected he would no longer be employed and asked Brian Brunton what the situation was. He told me it was an “administration” matter which he did not want to be involved in and that the matter was now in the hands of the Police Commissioner so things would take their course.

There was still animosity directed towards me and I was not able to get any typing or basic admin services (eg photocopying of collected files) and so ended up having to do everything myself. Every time I asked for something to be done, I was told everyone was too busy to assist me because they were doing priority work for the Chairman and Commissioners.

This situation carried on for quite some time and then around the 7 February 2010, Chairman Brunton went on leave again. I thought that there would be at least one of the office staff who could now assist me. I urgently needed to get data entered into the computer and all the land claims summarised amongst other things. However, I still couldn’t get any work done and discussed the matter of my work being held up with the two remaining Land Commissioners. During this discussion, I found out that they hadn’t given office staff much, if any, work to do and they couldn’t understand what the hold up was.

Eventually (12 Feb), I sent an email to Loretta Palmer (Attachment “F”) pointing out my concerns, which were to be discussed at a meeting with the Secretary and Commissioners. Loretta’s response to this was to pull all her staff off work and start making me out to be an ogre.

However, the issues I raised were able to be sorted out at the meeting with the Secretary and Commissioners and I was to have staff allocated directly to me so that my (and therefore the Commission’s) work could proceed. It appeared to me at the time that Loretta genuinely believed her staff were only to provide work for the Commissioners and not Counsel Assisting. I no longer believe that view was genuine.

Chairman Brunton Returns from Leave

Brian Brunton returned from leave in the first week of March. No doubt, (because of his living arrangements) he had been briefed on everything that had happened at the COI office. When he returned to work, he was extremely hostile towards me.

He levelled personal insults at me, accused me of being rude to office staff, and said I was responsible for the slow progress of the COI. Amongst other things, he said that his Executive Assistant, Rita Kevisi, had left the COI because of me - obviously a rumour mill had been started in the office to discredit and undermine me. Rita and I see each other from time to time and are friends. She left the COI because it was only a temporary job and she was offered a permanent, better paying job at BeMobile. There was no truth to this rumour or the other rumours and, some time later, this was eventually proved to Brian Brunton but he refused to divulge the source of those rumours.


As a result of the continuing animosity towards me and the hostility of Brian Brunton towards me, I informed the Secretary that I would be resigning from the two Commissions of Inquiry.

(Refer to Internal Memo 15 March – Attachment “G”).

I also informed Chairman Brunton and Commissioner Taloikwai of my decision. Brian Brunton was pleased but Gabriel Taloikwai asked me to reconsider my decision. He told me that if I resigned, he would go to the Prime Minister and also resign. He said that Brian had made certain allegations about me which were untrue and was using them as a reason to “sacrifice” me.

Gabriel made it clear to me that Brian’s attitude to me was because of his personal friendship with Loretta Palmer and Glen Hunts. He said that Brian Brunton had a conflict of interest because of his living arrangements with them.

It soon became clear to me that these people were perpetuating corruption within the COI and wanted me out so that they could continue on with no threat of disclosure about what they were doing.

Change of Attitude

Commissioner Taloikwai had made it very clear to Chairman Brunton that if I left the COI then he was going to resign.

This would have been disastrous for the RIPEL Commission and this, and the fact that the rumours about me were shown to be unfounded, seemed (at the time) to have changed Brian Brunton’s attitude about trying to get rid of me. He asked Secretary, Chris Waiwori, to try and talk me out of resigning, he expressed how sorry he was about it to Gabriel Taloikwai, and he asked me what he could do to make things right.

I told him that I wanted weekly meetings with all the Commissioners, the Secretary, and the Secretarial Manager so that any problems I was encountering with getting things done or anything else could be discussed and resolved and nothing further could be done behind my back. Brian Brunton agreed that this could happen but said that he would not attend those weekly meetings.

Inequity in Provision of Funds Between the Two Commissions of Inquiry
Things progressed at the Office of the COI and the weekly meetings were helpful in keeping things in check.

Emails from Brian Brunton

I went on leave in May but shortly after I left I received several forwarded emails from Brian Brunton (Refer Attachment “H”). One of them said that the Prime Minister wanted him to be the new Chairman of the RIPEL Commission and another advised me that the investigation field trip I had organised for RIPEL had not gone ahead because of funds not being provided.

Field Trip Funds and Double-Dipping

It seems to me that there is gross inequity in how imprest account funds are applied and used between the two Commissions of Inquiry. This is because the two Commissions share the one imprest account despite requests from Commissioner Taloikwai for RIPEL to have its own imprest account. The RIPEL Commission has a budget and should have control of its own funds.

An initial field trip was planned for the RIPEL Inquiry in April. Funds were delayed and as the boats only go to Yandina on Sundays, I provided my own personal funds so that the trip would not be delayed for another week on the basis that Finance would be providing a cheque within a few days (see Attachment “I” 1&2).

Brian Brunton decided to give me half of the money I had advanced and gave me $7,000 cash. He then claimed that $7,000 in his expenses and got reimbursed very promptly (in a cheque for $15,255 April GA3). When I finally received the money from Finance, and not knowing at that stage that Brian had been reimbursed already, I gave him half of it. When I found out, I made a point to the Secretary that it was extremely unfair that Brian Brunton got prompt reimbursement when RIPEL field trips were delayed because of funds not being provided and that I also had to wait quite some time for my reimbursement.

I told the Secretary that if I had known Brian had already been paid back his $7,000 then I wouldn’t have given him half of the Finance money and would have made sure it was banked back to the Government – it hasn’t been. The Secretary told me that Brian Brunton “double dipped” all the time without his knowledge and he was sick of him claiming for expenses he wasn’t entitled to behind his back (Refer page 2 Attachment “H”).

Second RIPEL Field Trip – Delayed

The second trip to Yandina was planned to go ahead in May and was to be a major investigation after the initial fact finding one. When I went on leave, I was assured the funds were available and the trip would go ahead but it was delayed for about a month because funds were not provided.

Whilst RIPEL staff were waiting on funding so their trip to Yandina could proceed, they became aware that Brian Brunton had organised a four day trip for two Land Commission staff. I am advised that those staff were given imprest funds of $27,000 within a few days of their request. How can two Land staff get $27,000 so quickly for a four day trip whilst two RIPEL staff wait over a month to get $26,000 for a three week trip? And why so much money?

So it does appear that there is discrimination or inequity in the provision of funding between the two Commissions and it also appears that Brian Brunton is able to get whatever funds he wants very promptly.

Chaos, Confusion and No Progress

When I returned from leave at the end of May, I couldn’t understand what had gone on during my absence because my instructions to staff had not been followed and there had been little or no progress. There had been no progress in the land claims and very little progress in the RIPEL investigations.

I asked Commissioner Tahi what had gone on while I was away and he said that nothing gets done unless I am there, but I felt it was more than that – it felt almost like things had been delayed deliberately.

I later found out that Brian Brunton had made Legal Officer, Sophia Choniey, in charge of both Commissions of Inquiry even though she was only seconded to the Land Commission and the RIPEL Commission had its own Legal Officer, Andrew Kelesi.

Once given this authority by Brian, Sophia had overridden my instructions to staff. She pulled a senior RIPEL investigator off his assigned tasks and told him he was in charge of land claims and gave him all the files (even though he knew nothing about the land claims). This meant that the two police officers assigned to, and briefed by me to investigate those claims, could not do any work because their files had been removed. Hence, no investigation in the RIPEL Commission and no progress in the claims of the Land Commission plus the fact that my files had been taken and gone through and were in complete disarray.

It is beyond my comprehension what Brian Brunton and Sophia Choniey hoped to achieve by doing this unless the plan was to deliberately delay the progress of the Commissions.

Unfortunately, the RIPEL investigator was removed for not following instructions and interfering with land claim files because Sophia lied about pulling him off his investigations and putting him in charge of the claims (Refer Attachment “J”).

Because of the chaos caused effectively by Brian Brunton’s interference with my work programmes and instructions to staff, I sought clarification from the Secretary and the SPM (Refer Attachment “K”) about the correct procedure and protocol of staff being swapped between the Commissions and about whether Brian Brunton had authority to make those appointments. However, to date, I have had no clarification and Brian continues to interfere with my instructions and, as a result, causes confusion and tension (Refer Attachments “L” and “M”).

Other Issues During My Leave

Internet Changed

A new wireless internet system was installed at a cost of $50,000 and the COI is now a subset of Finance instead of having an independent internet service. It is much slower and much more unreliable than the faster speed ADSL we previously had.

We originally had two ADSL lines ie one for the Land Commission and one for the RIPEL Commission and I was able to keep RIPEL matters away from Land staff and vice versa but, for some reason, they were “merged” earlier in the year and staff now have access to computer records in both Commissions. There is no division between the two Commissions and confidential information and can be accessed by any staff member, which is not good.

I kept bringing it up at the weekly meetings (which no longer happen) and the Secretary agreed to get a firewall installed so the information for each Commission was kept separate and confidential.

However, we still do not have any firewall and therefore, no confidentiality. We now have a system that is much worse and it cost $50,000 for that privilege.

RIPEL staff told me they had concerns that any information on the wireless server could be accessed by technicians working in Finance. The COI IT person also said this. I have since confirmed with RAMSI IT Adviser, Mike Squirrel, that this is the case but he said “they are sworn to secrecy”. How does this help when one of them is a friend of Glen Hunts?

Both Commissioner Taloikwai and I have failed to receive all of our emails since the installation of the wireless network.

Yandina Field Trip Sabotaged

The two staff who eventually were able to get down to Yandina advised me that the trip was almost a waste of time because their equipment was “sabotaged”. I prefer not to go into details and have discussed the matter with both RIPEL Commissioners. The trip will have to be repeated and has delayed the progress of the RIPEL Commission.

Commissioner Brunton said to me that I shouldn’t be concerned about delays because “Nothing matters if we are still getting paid.” I am disgusted by this remark.

My staff and I suspect that Glen Hunts was responsible for tampering with their laptops and equipment because he is the Logistics Officer and has keys and access to everything.

Current Situation

Meeting with RIPEL Staff

About two months ago, Legal Officer, Andrew Kelesi and Investigator, Robert Soaki, came into my office and said they wanted to inform me about certain things they had noticed happening in the Commissions of Inquiry.
They had come to the conclusion that there was corruption happening within the office of the COI and told me about what they had seen and heard. They also had a strong feeling that there was a push to delay things happening in the RIPEL COI.

They had grave concerns about the things happening and felt they had to share those concerns. When they had finished talking to me, I asked them to come and discuss the matters with Commissioner Gabriel but they were extremely reluctant to do so because they didn’t know who they could trust.

They eventually agreed and after I briefed Gabriel on what they had told me, he put them at ease by saying “ You’ve both discovered what Ruth and I have been sharing for some time now.” I felt so proud of those two that they had the courage and honesty to discuss their concerns instead of taking the easy route. It also independently reaffirmed what Gabriel and I knew was going on.

Rumours Surface Again to Discredit Me

The rumour network surfaced again but this time I know the source of those rumours.

One weekend, the General Manager (Sanjay) and the Accommodation Manager (Abdul) of the Heritage Park Hotel came to see me about something and Abdul mentioned before they left that he was concerned to hear about a complaint being made to Labour and Commerce about me. He told me that Loretta said that two of her girls had put in a complaint because of the way I treated them.

On Monday, Loretta wasn’t at work and I had a brief chat to one of the girls Abdul had mentioned. She said it was untrue and she would only do such a thing to horrible people like Abdul who deserve it. (Abdul is her ex boss). So I decided this was just a repetition of what had happened earlier in the year and a further attempt to discredit me by Loretta Palmer.

Loretta later denied saying any of it and reinforcing that she thought I got on very well with “her girls”.

Hostility Again

Brian Brunton started being openly hostile towards me again and I feel he is trying hard to push me out because I have interfered with his “comfort zone” and will not let corruption just sit or turn a blind eye to it.
No Work for Counsel Again

We are again back to the same stage we were in early in the year with none of Loretta’s staff being able to do basic admin work for me because they are too busy. I still don’t have the staff promised to me earlier in the year.


I have not had internet for over three weeks and neither has Commissioner Taloikwai. We cannot send or receive emails and despite repeated requests to Loretta and her staff, nothing has been done. Every other staff member has the internet but not Gabriel or I. (Weekly meetings no longer occur as promised by Brian Brunton so no grievances can be aired and nothing gets done).

Office Searched and Email Records Destroyed

I am now quite used to my office being searched and keep important documents off the premises.

Out of necessity, I have recently had to resort to buying Bumblebee internet cards and going to the Heritage Park Hotel to send and receive emails.

When I opened Microsoft Outlook this morning on my work computer to get an email address, I found that all of my email records had been destroyed. What will happen next in the name of corruption?


The GA3 Expenditure Reports for 2009 are provided as Attachments A and D.
The GA3 Expenditure Reports for 2010 up to end July are provided as Attachments N and O.

It must be borne in mind that the two GA3 Expenditure Reports should be consolidated to get a true picture of the expenses shared by one Office.
The timing of the expenditure should also be looked at. The Commissioners for the Land Commission started in August 2009. Commissioner Taloikwai (RIPEL) and I started in October. There are significant expenses in RIPEL between May and October 2009.

Motor Vehicle Hire

Oct 09 12,000 (HUN) Glen Hunts
51,000 (PAL) Loretta Palmer
Nov 09 17,050 (HUN)
Jan 10 32,450 (HUN)

Jun 09 39,000 (HUN)
Mar 10 48,950 (HUN)
$ 210,500 Total charge for Glen Hunts run down vehicle.

(Note there is a further entry for $30,000 under (WAI) Chris Waiwori, which could also relate to this vehicle).

Isn’t there a Government procedure to follow re motor vehicle hire?

Motor Vehicle Repairs

Oct 09 12,605 (MMP) Motor Marine P/L. Glen Hunts added $12,000 to this invoice.*

Oct 09 11,153 (EMC)
19,500 (NAI)
Nov 09 25,000 (IGO)
33,390 (MMP) Same company as the fraudulent invoice above.*
Jul 09 12,385 (PRA)

$ 114,033

Note – there are two police cars at the COI. The other vehicle is owned by Glen Hunts and the COI “hires” that vehicle so it should not have any repair costs.

Of particular concern here is another invoice from Motor Marine Pty Ltd for $33,390. This is the Ysabel company that Glen Hunts took my car to and an extra $12,000 was added to the cost. That invoice was paid within a couple of days by Finance. The further payment of $33,390 to Motor Marine Pty Ltd should be thoroughly scrutinised because it too has probably been loaded up.

Computer Purchases

Apr 09 48,000 (ITC)
24,000 (ATE)

May 09 49,500 (AMC)
49,500 (AMC)
48,000 (ATE)
Jun 09 48,000 (AMC)
48,000 (ATE)
48,000 (ATE)
Feb 10 27,800 (ATE)
Mar 10 23,000 (ATE) A further $48,000 appears in GA3 for April 2010 (ATE)
$ 414,000 $462,000 plus the additional invoices in August*

RIPEL staff members have seen invoices for more computers* (on Glen Hunts desk) for August which are not yet included in the above figures because the GA3 only goes up to end July 10. We suspect that invoices are now just being raised for payment without any physical supply of computers being made.


• There is no asset register which should record serial numbers of assets bought;

• Some of the laptops are old ones from the last COI;

• The numbers of computers purchased do not add up to the physical count.


The total expenditure on toners is $274,000. This figure may or may not be reasonable – but there was until very recently only one photocopier in the COI office. They are supplied by several businesses ie ATE, ACS, ITS.
“ITS” is IT Supplier Services and shows on the Land Commission GA3 in October and November 2009 as ITS004. This is the business that provided a fake invoice for the flash drives ($12,500)* mentioned in Commissioner Taloikwai’s letter to the SPM ("E”) and previously discussed (“A”).

All of the payments to ITS should be thoroughly investigated. It is highly likely that there are more fake invoices or they have been loaded up for kickbacks. They appear on the 2009 Land GA3 Report and are listed below:
Oct 09 47,500 ITS Toner
Oct 09 12,500 ITS Flash Drives* - loaded up by around $10,000.
Oct 09 40,000 ITS P/Copy Machine
Oct 09 35,000 ITS Installation
Nov 09 18,000 ITS Toner

Other Expenditure and Accounting Issues

The RIPEL Inquiry and Land Inquiry are separate Commissions yet I have found that some of the salaries and expenses are being debited to the wrong COI. This issue is a minor issue and easily corrected and I have brought it to the attention of accounting staff in Finance. Allowances are also being shown as salary.

There also needs to be a better control in place to verify that the expense being paid is actually a Government expense. I provide as an example, my Heritage Park accommodation account (Refer Attachment “P”). The accommodation charge is a valid charge for Government payment. The electricity charge and the extras charge are not, yet they were paid by Finance.

When I found out what had happened, I drew a personal cheque made payable to the SI Government and gave it to the Secretary and asked him to sign that he had received it. I have to say that I did not expect him to ask me to make the cheque out to cash (which I refused to do). A photocopy of the cheque is on page 2 of “P”.

Because I am an accountant (as well as a barrister), certain amounts in the GA3 reports have caught my attention and I feel that perhaps the following amounts should be looked into.


Sep 09 Installation $49,000 VIK006 For what and was the price inflated? Oct 09 Upkeep $5,000 GAD001 This is for police officer Gada.
Oct 09 Off. Keeping $10,000 GAD001 What is this officer being paid upkeep and office keeping
for? He gets regular allowances shown on the GA3 in both the Land COI and the RIPEL COI eg sub. allowance 5/10 $5,920, staff allowance $2,800 etc so why the extra $15,000?
Oct 09 Appoint Grant $2,500 HUN009 What is Glen Hunts getting an appointment grant for? He is getting staff allowances eg 11/09 Sup. Allow $19,760.
Oct 09 Renovations $39,000 HUN009 How much was added to this?
Oct 09 Mobile phones $4773 OTE004 This was for 3 mobile phones ie For Glen Hunts, Jack Kwai and Chris Waiwori. RIPEL staff have told me that Glen Hunts recently bought another two phones ie one for himself and one for accountant, Robinson. What is the procedure here when investigators who need mobile phones cannot get them?
Nov 09 Toner cart. $25,000 ACS002 Could be okay but it is an even amount of $25,000.
Nov 09 Cleaning Co $10,000 GAD001 This is the Police Officer Gada (above) again and an even amount of $10,000 for cleaning?
Nov 09 Clean Materials $11,174 GSC002 I am suspicious about this because Glen Hunts was involved.
Nov 09 Repairs $25,000 IGO001 No details and an even amount again.
Nov 09 Network Cable $37,000 PBS002 Could be okay but worth checking. Apr 10 Repair Aircon $24,721 PRA002 Can buy a new one for this price. Jul 10 3Qtr H/Allow $30,000 WAI032 Could be for Glen Hunts vehicle but why is it in Chris Waiwori’s name?


May 10 Monitoring/ Maintenance $16,500 MAN047 There are substantial installation and maintenance charges in the GA3 Reports already. Why do we have another one so soon? It goes without saying that all amounts showing in the GA3 reports as “Refunds” should be looked into. The ones of particular concern are HUN009 Glen Hunts, KWA060 Jack Kwai, and BRU002 Brian Brunton.

Perhaps the petrol account at Solomon Motors should also be looked into. The payment amounts in both Commissions are a recurring $20,000.

Previous allegations of “Financial Mismanagement

There were allegations of “financial mismanagement” in the COI into the April 2006 riots. Brian Brunton, Loretta Palmer, and Glen Hunts were all involved in that COI.

Commissioner Taloikwai, Legal Officer, Andrew Kelesi, and I have had access to confidential files in the course of our investigations and inquiries. One of those file contained a strong recommendation not to use Loretta Palmer and her services in the current Commissions of Inquiry because of “financial mismanagement” in the last Inquiry.

I do not understand why this was not fully investigated at that time – even a mere hint of such things should set alarm bells ringing. Yet, the same network in now currently employed in the two Commissions of Inquiry and, presumably, still perpetuating the network of corruption and obstructing progress for financial gain.

Family Affair

All staff employed in the office are all related to Loretta Palmer and her husband Glen Hunts in some way. The cleaner is Glen’s sister and Loretta has her daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and two nieces working in the main office.

It is commonsense that you should not have a husband and wife team and all their relatives working in the same office. It allows corruption to be perpetuated and to be easily covered up because it is a “family affair” and everyone looks out for each other.

Our RIPEL office still does not have a photocopier because we were told there were no funds but recently a “backup” photocopier was bought in case the main office one broke down. The new photocopier is beside Loretta’s desk in the main office as is the other photocopier. RIPEL staff must go to the main office to do any photocopying instead of having the “backup” photocopier in their office. Why? Because Loretta wants to know what documents are being photocopied in case somebody (especially RIPEL staff) find anything else out about her husband’s activities. A prime example of this was seen when Commissioner Taloikwai, as previously mentioned, printed out his documents in the main office only to have them intercepted before they reached SPM, Jerry Manele.


The Land Commission which expires next month (October) should not be extended until a thorough investigation of the financial accounts is undertaken and a review of Secretariat staff is completed.

The RIPEL Commission which has expired should be renewed and given its own imprest account and control of funds and another Commissioner from the Solomon Islands should be appointed.

The RIPEL Commission should be staffed with seconded public servants instead of the “family affair” situation currently in play under Loretta Palmer’s umbrella and which is impeding the progress of the RIPEL Commission. The benefit of having seconded public servants is that they are independent and are less likely to have the opportunity to be involved in a network of corruption. Any extra skills acquired with capacity building will also be of future benefit to the Government and not be lost on private enterprise staff.

RIPEL staff is comprised of hardworking and honest people. All we ask is that we may carry on our profession in an honourable way and not be stymied and tarnished by the corruption we see going on around us.

Your sincerely,

Ruth Townsend
Counsel Assisting the Commissions of Inquiry

31 August 2010


  1. Ruth's revealation only goes to confirm what I had all along suspected; that is someone is delibrately prolonging the time and the work of the COI's for personal gain. Now that Ms Townsend has shed some light on what is happening, let an Inquiry into the Inquiries (pun intended) begin to roll. I am tempted to believe that this practice have started long before 2009, therefore, for the inquiry to be complete, all the dealing of the current and the former CoI's be investigated.
    There are some really damning allegations here, but the point is that there must be an investigation into these allegations. And if they are found to be true, then someone needs to be locked up behind bars. Do not put them under suspension, terminate their contracts or make them repay the unaccounted sums of money. Put them where they rightly belong - Rove. Do not even consider the deportation option.

    And once the investigation is underway, put everyone at half pay and restriction to enter the COI premises. We do not want evidences being tempered with.

  2. It doesn't surprise me at all. Corruption is ripe in Solomon Islands from the top and no one is watching. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  3. I heard about the 2 COIs but did not realise this report is out in public. Great. All the people mentioned here to be involved in the corruption in the 2 COIs have been in other institutions, projects and programs before the COIs. The network they represent covers the public service and procurement linkages into the private sector. I wish we can all put together effort to put these people to shame and help clean up our society.