SOLOMONS PM ORDERS RESOLUTION OF PNG CHANCERY ISSUE

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Construction halted due to mismanagement allegations

By Ednal Palmer HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 1, 2011) – Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has instructed his Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Shanel to deal with the controversial issue surrounding the PNG chancery funds.

Special Secretary to the Prime Minister Andrew Muaki said the Prime Minister has written to Mr. Shanel instructing him to address the issue of urgent concern in his ministry.

"The Prime Minister instructed him to liaise with his Papua New Guinea counterpart to ascertain the degree or level of misappropriation of funds earmarked for the implementation of the PNG Chancery in Honiara," Muaki said.

He said Prime Minister Lilo stressed in the letter dated November 29, 2011 that although the construction of the PNG Chancery in Honiara is a matter between the PNG Government and the contractor, it is a matter of priority for him "so that taxpayers of both countries get maximum output for their dollars."

"In contacting your PNG counterpart, please ensure you make it clear that the SIG stands ready to assist PNG authorities should the latter consider it necessary to probe the matter further."

[PIR editor’s note: In January 2011, the Opposition in the Solomon Islands’ parliament called for a critical probe into the monies allegedly sent to the PNG High Commission amidst claims that the money had been used to bail out the construction company hired to complete the project.]

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had already pledged to probe into the alleged mismanagement of the funds which froze up construction work on the chancery which was scheduled to finish in November 2010.

During his brief stopover in the country in September this year, Mr. O’Neill said they were disappointed and pledged to launch a separate investigation which he planned to ask the Solomon Islands government to assist in.

"This will include how we have managed the contract process which has been done outside our normal procurement process," he said. "We will get to the bottom of it, but we want to assure the Solomon Islands Government and the people that we will complete the project under a new contractor."

The Chancery building came to a halt last year not long after Transworld Construction ran out of money to pay its employees and meet other contractual obligations.

Former Prime Minister Danny Philip before resigning decided to pump in a "goodwill" SB$3 million [US$376,500] payment for the construction.

The payment was said to be in response to a request by the PNG government, through the Solomon Islands Port Moresby High Commission Office, for the Solomon Islands to consider assisting in ensuring that work on the Chancery building in Honiara would continue.

PNG helped build Solomon Islands Chancery in Port Moresby without much assistance from the Solomon Islands government.

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