COPRA GROWERS URGE PNG GOVERNMENT TO SAVE COPRA MARKETING BOARD

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 7, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---A copra producers group has outlined an action plan which it hopes will revive the Copra Marketing Board and convince the National Government to bail out the board from imminent bankruptcy.

The PNG Growers Association (PNGGA) said that among the first steps should be a massive capital injection from Waigani and the removal of three current board members and Copra Marketing Board chief executive officer James Kiele.

The growers' action plan, agreed at in Kokopo, was presented to board chairman Jerry Nalau at a public forum in Rabaul.

PNGGA national president Valentine Kambori said the proposed action called for:

* Change of board members;

* Change in management structure;

* Termination of contract of the chief executive officer James Kiele;

* Past and present Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture and Livestock to be investigated;

*Previous CMB board members to be investigated;

* National government assistance to bail out the CMB; and

* An independent review of an earlier independent review of CMB books.

The PNGGA said in its submission to Mr. Nalau that the growers were aware that CMB's viability had further declined and it was now faced with imminent collapse because of acute liquidity problems and an imminent decline in business as copra prices continue to fall drastically.

"The PNGGA proposes a number of actions to revive CMB through good governance and management and operational efficiency," he said.

He said that CMB board members who should be removed are Robinson Namaliu, Elias Roboam and Philbert Kadiko and new board members appointed in consultation with the PNGGA.

The growers petitioned Mr. Nalau to review former chairman Namaliu's "top heavy management structure, which includes a chief executive officer and three general managers."

The growers claimed that there has been no major increase in new businesses as a result of the restructure. They proposed that the former structure of one general manager and three divisional managers, which had run the CMB just as effectively, be reinstated.

"The PNGGA proposes a change in management structure by removing the top heavy, presumably expensive outlay and revert to the previous structure," Mr. Kambori said, adding that "unnecessary executive management" should be sacked.

On the removal of Mr. Kiele, the PNGGA said much of the problem - both in the CMB management and in the relationship with the industry and the growers - had come about because of the nature and style of leadership of the chief executive officer.

"He is most unsuitable for the position and the PNGGA proposes his removal as quickly as possible," said Mr. Kambori.

The growers claimed there had been an apparent absence of regulatory, statutory supervision of the CMB and the Agriculture and Livestock Minister and the departmental secretary were responsible.

"They did not carry out their duly constituted duties and responsibilities under the Copra Marketing Board Act and the executive status as given to the Agriculture and Livestock Secretary by the National Executive Council," the growers said.

They also said that previous board members should "be investigated and brought to responsibility for their lack of good governance and due diligence in the affairs of the CMB, which has brought the board to its knees."

"This action will be a major warning and deterrent to current and future board members and also to other commodity corporate board members in the performance of their duties," the growers said. On bailing out CMB from its financial woes, the PNGGA said the national government must step in immediately.

"For the price to fall below K 300 (US$ 108) per ton will completely render the copra industry bankrupt and the state must come to the party to put in a rescue package," the growers told Mr. Nalau.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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