$155 MILLION PNG ROAD PROGRAM A BUST

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 18) – An Asian Development Bank loan of K460 million (US$155.3 million) approved in 2001 to maintain 684 kilometers of roads in the five Highlands provinces expires in December with only 50 kilometers of road maintained so far.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday, Milne Bay Governor Tim Neville criticised Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on the management of the loan.

"The six-year ADB loan facility will lapse next year but technically in December 2005. It means the loan facility is about to end after five years with only 50 kilometers of road constructed," Mr Neville said.

But Somare asked Mr Neville to put his questions on notice so they could be answered in detail tomorrow.

Mr Neville also alleged that seven highly paid consultants were hired by ADB at the start of the program and had fully drawn their expertise at a cost of US$25,000 (K81,433) a month.

"A total of K35 million (US$11.8 million) has been paid to the seven consultants to date as professional fees after the construction of only 50 kilometers of roads," Mr Neville said.

Mr Neville, in his series of questions, asked if the Prime Minister was aware of the "serious" nature of the ADB road rehabilitation program and the "disproportionate" expenditure of K35 million to the seven consultants hired by the Works Department to manage the loan facility.

"If yes, what will the Government do to avoid further embarrassment to the paying tax payers of this country when such a poor and pathetic output being displayed by the highly paid consultants for the construction of only 50km of road in the last four and a half years?" Mr Neville asked.

The Prime Minster was also asked if he was aware that an Auditor-General’s report in July 2001 noted the disappearance of 3,005 new vehicles valued at K14 million (US$4.7 million) and the disappearance of another 27 vehicles prior to the 2002 general elections.

Mr Neville also called on Somare to assure the five Highlands provinces and Parliament that he would direct an inquiry into the management of the ADB loan and the management and affairs of the Works Department.

July 19, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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