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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 29, 2000 – The National)---Individuals connected with the management of the privatization process will not be allowed to participate in the purchase of privatized assets, Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta announced yesterday.

The Prime Minister also said that all assets would be sold through a transparent tendering procedure and "special arrangements" with particular individuals would not be allowed.

Sir Mekere said this at the opening of the Transparency International seminar on 'Privatization and Integrity Impact' at the Granville Hotel yesterday.

"How can we ensure transparency and accountability are built into the system and processes that we establish for privatization?" he asked, adding "the framework for ensuring this is in place."

The Prime Minister said the Privatization Commission itself has in-built preventive mechanisms that provide a natural safeguard against abuse of the community's interest.

"The structure of the Commission approved by the NEC, has been carefully delineated to ensure accountability and transparency."

Sir Mekere said the managing director would be responsible for all financial matters, staff appointments, supervising professional and technical work, and would report to the executive chairman, the commission, minister, National Planning Committee and then the Cabinet.

"On transparency and accountability, NEC has approved activities which will be open to complete scrutiny by the public and the media."

The Prime Minister said the key features to ensure accountability and transparency include:

"I would like to tell everyone, especially the critics of privatization, that it is unprofitable to try to change the unchangeable. As long as I am Prime Minister, the policy on privatization is here to stay. Privatization will happen in the way that I want it to happen. Roadblocks will be removed. If I cannot remove them, I will stop the process until I can."

He said the success of the program was imperative for the future economic health of the country, and to achieve the ability to provide services so badly needed for development and for the improved welfare of the people.

Sir Mekere said he shared the concerns of critics, although sometimes they missed the point and he invited the critics to get involved and understand what the Government was trying to do.

"If they have objections, (they must) propose specific remedies. The TUC for example has every opportunity to help shape the program through their position on the Privatization Commission."

"I am confident that the structure and processes we have put in place will ensure that privatization occurs through a transparent, honest and fair process that will maximize the proceeds to the people of Papua New Guinea, and take into account the interests of workers and consumers."

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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