SOLOMONS GOVERNMENT OWES TRAVEL AGENT $28,000

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Delegation owes for plane tickets to Bougainville funeral

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 22, 2009) – The Government reportedly owes a local travel agent $194,000 [US$27,800] in unpaid airline tickets.

This is for tickets Pacifica Travel Centre issued to a high level Government delegation that attended the funeral of Bougainville’s former president Joseph Kabui in June last year.

An official from Pacifica told the Solomon Star that in late May Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua wrote a letter asking the travel agent for tickets for his ministers and officials.

Pacifica Travel issued the tickets on 9 June. But the official said after they issued the tickets, they heard the government had chartered a Solomon Airlines plane to take the delegation of ministers and top officials to Bougainville.

He said the delegates did not use the tickets issued by their company until they reach Bougainville. The tickets were for the Honiara, Moresby, Brisbane, Honiara route.

"They didn’t use the tickets until they reach Bougainville," the Pacific Travel senior official said.

"Although they only travelled the return leg of the trip, they have to pay the full amount. So far, the government has failed to honour its obligation to us," he said.

A government source told the Solomon Star the delegates flew to Australia for unknown reasons before they returned to the country.

The Pacifica Travel Centre spokesman said they’ve been asking the Government to pay up but without success.

"The government has promised to pay-up since last year but they never did," he said.

IATA (International Air Transport Association) rules require tickets issued must be paid in full even if customers travelled only part of the route.

As a travel agent, the Pacific Travel official said they’ve already paid their dues to Solomon Airlines for the tickets that were issued.

"We used our money to meet this cost so we expect the Government to be responsible and meets its side of the deal," the official said.

The Prime Minister’s office said Secretary to Cabinet Ruth Liloqula was responsible for the payments.

"We cannot do anything because everything is looked after by the secretary to the cabinet and we are just awaiting her directions," a spokesperson said.

Ms Liloqula was unable to comment because she was in a meeting when the Solomon Star contacted her yesterday.

She said she’ll respond today.

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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