HIGH Court judge Justice Janaka Bandara yesterday issued a warning to public servants dealing with public funds after sentencing former Native Land Trust Board officials Kalivati Bakani and Keni Dakuidreketi to jail terms for abuse of office.
Mr Dakuidreketi, a former NLTB board member, was jailed for six years, and must serve a minimum of five years in prison.
Mr Bakani, NLTB's former general manager, was jailed for four years and must serve a minimum of three years.
Justice Bandara said it was indeed sad to hear agonising stories narrated on behalf of the two men at their sentencing hearing.
"Apart from losing their wealth and health, now they will have to spend time in jail.
"This undoubtedly amounts to falling out of the frying pan into the fire.
"But I wish to stress that public officers who handle the responsibility of public funds will have to be mindful of the long-term consequences of their decisions and acts," he said.
"They are appointed to such offices because of their knowledge, skills and experience to nurture the expectations of a country.
"They are duty-bound to safeguard and uphold the interests of ordinary people through good governance and sound systems of internal control.
"They are not supposed to deploy symptoms of dishonesty to pervade the entire social fabric.
"It is high time that public officers realise that their interest is vested with the public and one day they are accountable for all their actions.
"They cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
"Therefore, when a public officer is found to be criminally responsible for his official conducts, however sad his story maybe, he will have to face an immediate custodial sentence."