Koror, Palau – The Office of the Special Prosecutor does not typically comment on ongoing lawsuits or news articles. However, due to recent allegations against our Investigators levied by Island Times, the Special Prosecutor is compelled to make the following statement:
The Island Times article published today, September 27, 2019, is based on a defense filing designed to find any information that would be useful in discrediting the hard work of OSP Investigators for the benefit of Chief Public Defender Hanley’s client, former Governor Maria Gates-Meltel. The OSP is not afraid of such scrutiny. The current case against the former Angaur Governor is not politically driven but is simply a paper case based on documents and matters uncovered in a public audit This is not unusual for the OSP as receipt of cases from the Office of the Public Auditor is one of the main ways the OSP receives and investigates complaints regarding possible economic crimes. However, the Island Times article is not written for the benefit of informing the public of criminal activity or even providing a fair and complete description of the events detailed. With this in mind, the Island Times showed reckless disregard in publishing such an incomplete story.
Governor Ngiratrang’s actions during his time as Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division (CID)/ Acting Chief of the Department of Corrections, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Richard Ngiratrang and is expected to go to trial sometime this fall. The article claims that both Madlutk and Oimei were co-partners in Mr. Ngiratrang’s work at Surangel and Sons and that they both took payments from the government for hours they worked at Surangel and Sons. Ms. Oimei has not worked for Surangel’s since she was in her teens. Based on documents provided to the OSP from Island Times, Mr. Madlutk also did not work for Surangel and Sons, but assisted Richard Ngiratrang in Mr. Ngiratrang’s part-time work for Surangel and Sons. There have never been any documents provided to the OSP to show inappropriate payments to either investigator by the government while they worked for BPS.
What appears to really be at the heart of this controversy is a long-standing practice whereby BPS officers were, and still are based upon information and belief, given night differential pay to compensate the officers for overtime (OT) hours worked and accumulated for which they could not be paid due to extreme budgetary constraints. This ongoing policy pre-dates 2007 and was created and implemented by leadership in BPS to try to compensate BPS officers for unpaid OT hours accumulated and for OT which would be demanded of them in order to ensure uninterrupted investigations and service to the public. This BPS policy was not meant not to stop BPS officers from working a second job. BPS employees in the various Divisions executed this practice at the direction of their employers for the reasons stated above. Officers Madlutk and Oimei were not alone in following the direction of their superiors, and the selective reporting of the Island Times in this regard is deeply disappointing and somewhat curious.
More importantly, it appears that all these matters were discussed and justified to former Vice President/Minister of Justice Bells in or about August 2016; and, again with the current Vice President/Minister of Justice Oil ouch in or about February 2017. No criminal activity was found to have occurred. At that time, a suggestion was made by the Office of the Special Prosecutor to have the Office of the Public Auditor conduct an audit of all BPS timesheet and payroll records, including an audit and review of any and all operational records/funds and supporting documentation submitted by the Bureau of Public Safety, in order to ensure compliance with the relevant laws of the Republic. The suggestion did not come to fruition.
During the course of their employment with the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Helenda Oimei and Joram Madlutk have been exemplary law enforcement officers of the highest integrity. They will continue to assist the Office of the Special Prosecutor in gathering the documents and evidence necessary to expose and prosecute government corruption. As for the matters raised in today’s Island Times article, Special Prosecutor Cripps has made it a chief priority to increase transparency throughout the Republic. Such efforts begin with its law enforcement agencies. In keeping with this priority, and because these matters are once again being raised without full disclosure, Special Prosecutor Cripps, concurrent with this statement, will be filing a formal request with the Office of the Public Auditor to audit, investigate, and review (1) all time sheets and payroll records of the Bureau of Public Safety back to 2012; and, (2) any and all operational records/funds and supporting documentation submitted by the Bureau of Public Safety for the same time period, in order to ensure compliance with the relevant laws of the Republic.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor appreciates the privilege of serving the needs of the nation. Please visit our website, palauosp.org, to access OSP press releases, announcements, information on past and ongoing cases, and to report government corruption.