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How Operations Division came to be, rise of a passionate officer

MVIL Executive Manager Operations Ms. Helen Koka. 

Ms. Helen Wasun Koka is one (1) out of a few who has lived through the good and the bad, and have been part of the growth and expansion of the state-owned entity, Motor Vehicles Insurance Limited (MVIL), for 24 years.

We hear people say they are passionate about their work and wonder what drives them to continue working for a company or an organization for many years.

As opposed to finding greener pastures and going where the money is, Ms. Koka is an example of someone who has stayed in one place because of the passion and drive to see change and help the younger generation recognize and develop their skills and potential in the workplace.

This year she will clock 24 years with MVIL, a journey which she said has been rewarding, exciting and challenging.

Ms. Koka, who comes from Kondipa Village, Lake Ekari Ward in the Upper Mendi LLG, Southern Highlands Province, joined MVIL on the 26th of November 1998 as an Assistant Revenue Accountant after completing studies in Australia.

She pursued her educational goals and completed her Advanced Diploma in Accounting at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Joining MVIL was her first job after external studies, so performing to the best of her ability was an absolute must. After six (6) months she became a Revenue Analyst. And a year later, she was promoted to Assistant Manager Accounts and Finance.

“In those early years, it was very competitive. It was during the time when the company was going into naturalization from being managed by expatriates to being managed by Papua New Guineans. It was exciting because we had to work hard to build our careers and work hard to get that recognition that we deserved,” Ms. Koka said.

Exciting, yes, but also challenging being a young single mother during that time, choosing family, career and making sacrifices were all part of the greater picture.

“At that time, as a single parent, you had to have a job. I had to ensure that my children were in school and that we had a roof over our heads. I had to choose between building my career as a professional accountant with an accounting firm or MVIL. Well, you know what I chose, and to this very day, I do not regret it.”

Recalling her journey with MVIL, Ms. Koka said she worked relentlessly and put in a lot of effort to become a good accountant at that time. In 2000, she was promoted to Assistant Manager Accounts and Finance, and in 2001, she was given a scholarship to the James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, to study for a Degree in Commerce (majoring in Accounting and Management).

From 2001–2003, Ms. Koka studied in Townsville, and returned to continue working with MVIL as the Assistant Accounts and Finance Manager.

Ms. Koka’s immediate challenge was to visit all MVIL Agents and meet with provincial administrations to set up MVIL presence in the provinces, by establishing MVIL branches from 2003–2016.

In 2015, MVIL won the Prime Minister’s Excellence Award for its contribution in the SOE space, and MVIL recognized Ms. Koka’s achievement for her service and contribution to MVIL in that regard. It is an achievement she recalls as very special for her.

In 2006-2007, there was an organizational restructure and the Operations Division was created.

Ms. Koka said the Operations Division was created because it was a revenue-driving function and could not operate under the Accounts and Finance Division at that time, while managing agents and branches around the country. There was also a need to network with all provincial governments, Royal PNG Constabulary, Traffic Police and the National Road Safety Council.

Liaising with provincial governments meant Ms. Koka had to travel extensively and take the lead in setting up the MVIL Two-In-One Sticker Arrangement, which is having the CTP insurance policy cover and motor vehicle registration on one sticker and updating the status of Agents to branches while establishing MVIL offices in the provinces.

“I took on the challenge. It was my passion. I went and I did it. I like to say I conceived the Operations Division and gave birth to it,” she says with a smile.

Of course, it was not always smooth sailing. Ms. Koka recalls that there were some provincial governments that opposed the idea of the twin sticker arrangement and there were others that readily welcomed the idea. Nevertheless, she pursued her work and the fruits of her labour can be visibly seen today.

The Operations Division has since grown in leaps and bounds under her wings.

Ms. Koka said: “I was so passionate about taking the services of MVIL nationwide. It was my cup of tea. I could not sleep. I was sleeping in and out of my suitcase. I so aggressively wanted to establish the twin sticker arrangement in the provinces. Operations has grown from nothing to something and I am humbled to sit here and say that I take two thirds of the cake of MVIL.”

“It is my sworn duty to generate revenue, hence, the establishment of branches and sub branches in establishing MVIL’s presence on the ground to provide customer service. It is something I am passionate about.”

Ms. Koka was the Acting Operations Manager from 14 October 2007 to 31 December 2007, and by January the following year, she was given a contract to sign as Operations Manager.

“That was my first management contract and I was in tears. It was emotional. For the first time ever, I experienced what it was like to be treated like a manager in a senior position and being female as well,” she said.

“You know, I had a lot of challenge coming into the workforce. Personal challenges from being a single parent, to being a career person. I faced challenges at work during that time but I never gave up. My parents were missionaries and so I learned a lot on how to respect others and work with them in a team.”

The establishment of the MVIL provincial branches has been Ms. Koka’s biggest challenge as travelling to other provinces came with its own perks, mostly of the natural and environmental kind.

She recalls at one stage, directives from the National Government were for all state-owned entities to set up service centre’s in mainland Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB). MVIL was one of those SOE’s directed to do that and this saw Ms. Koka travelling to AROB to set up office in Arawa.

“I almost got swept away by a flooded river between Arawa and Buka with fellow colleague Ms. Serah Eme while searching for potential areas to set up the MVIL office. But maybe God knew it was not my time to go. I’m still standing.”

Her encouragement to the younger generation is summed up below: “You have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you have the capability of becoming the person that you want to be. You are not here to prove yourself to anybody. Just be yourself. Make sure that you have a character that earns respect and give the same respect back to others.”

Ms. Koka added that one of the reasons she continues to work with MVIL is to help raise the next generation of leaders under her management.

“It is my passion and satisfaction to see and help talented individuals recognize their full potential and skills and utilize them in the workplace,” she said.

“I love MVIL. It was my make or break. It has grown. It has changed. It made me the person I am today. I love what I do here, and when I leave, I want to leave fully satisfied knowing that I gave my best leaving that legacy behind.”

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