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Taiwan companies got most of work

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Aug. 19, 2010) – In Palau, the Office of the President wishes to clarify news reports alleging the government purposely awarded economic stimulus projects to foreign-owned firms over locally owned companies.

Specifically, the story implies that the Office of the President and the Capitol Improvements Projects’ (CIP) office intentionally awarded the infrastructure projects to companies owned by foreign companies and not local businesses. Such accusations are simply untrue, irresponsible and a disservice to the public because they mislead the Palauan people, President Johnson Toribiong said in a press release.

The projects mentioned in the news reports are all funded by stimulus grants from the Taiwan and must be completed to a major extent by December 31, 2010 so that the remaining grant of the year can be justifiably requested for the final drawdown for FY 1010, a mere four months from now. For that reason, President Toribiong explained, he waived one clause of the bidding and procurement regulations, which refers only to the bidders’ nationality, in order to fast track these critical projects that will help the local economy both immediately and in the future. This is legal and provided for under the Palau procurement law.

"I have explained this repeatedly," he said. No waiver whatsoever was made on the part of public bidding procedures. And all the Republic of China (ROC) Grant-related projects went through the normal the open bidding process.

The fact that bidding on the projects was limited only to companies from Taiwan and Palau was intended to ensure that the projects would truly benefit the Republic’s economy.

The Fiscal Year 2010 stimulus projects already awarded are listed below:

If Taiwan firms received contracts for the majority of the projects, it was simply because they demonstrated their ability to quickly and expeditiously start and complete the projects within the short time frame remaining before funding lapses, which would nullify millions of dollars in critical infrastructure development.

"The bottom line is the CIP office and the Office of the President determined that awarding the projects to the companies that got them was clearly in the best interest of the Republic of Palau," CIP Manager Brian Melairei explained. "These companies have the ability to commence work immediately with their own resources without having to wait for the stimulus funding; instead they can be paid as the projects progress. I want to make it very clear that is was for these reasons and nothing else that was the basis for awarding the projects. There was no design to favor foreign-owned companies over local firms."

By contrast, Japan, another major donor to Palau, has no open bid process; it simply contracts a Japanese company to do the work, Melairei noted.

President Toribiong expressed concern that the misleading and inaccurate news stories may have a negative impact on the government of the Republic of China, which is funding the projects. He added newspapers simply need to ask to be provided the facts.

"In my estimation, my administration is the most transparent in the history of Palau. I preface every press conference with an invitation for members of the media to not be afraid to ask any question they want because my administration has absolutely nothing to hide," President Toribiong added. "And I personally accept reporters’ calls almost on a daily basis because I want to make sure only facts and accurate information is relayed to the people of Palau."

Coincidentally, the newspaper that published the story doesn’t even attend the President’s news conferences and never bothered to consult with the Office of the President prior to publishing its false accusations. They also didn’t talk to Melairei regarding the validity of their story, the President said.

"I have the highest regard and respect for the free media and I believe it plays a critical role in our society. But newspapers also have an ethical responsibility not to embellish facts, to tell the truth and ensure that what they publish for public consummation is factual. The media is an important partner in the dissemination of information to the public, so they must verify the information they print to ensure it’s accurate," President Toribiong advised.

Island Times © 2010 Island Times. All rights reserved

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