PRIME Minister James Marape’s first anniversary message was breathtaking.
A magnificent piece capturing his Governments’ achievements and letdowns in the first 365 days in office.
The subject of interest to me was the Government inheriting a ‘huge debt’ from his predecessor, cleaning up legacy issues and repaying millions of outstanding debts acquired by the former Government over the years.
The mesmerising clause that inspired me was the outstanding debts for “Works contracts’’, where the current Government had repaid almost K300 million worth of outstanding contracts under the 2019 Supplementary Budget.
The prime minister went on to explain that “Works had over K3 billion worth of outstanding bills to be sorted out because of issuing contracts left, right and center over the years”.
The billions of kina in outstanding Works contracts is shocking, at a time when awarding of contracts had been manipulated with dirty money (bribery), nepotism, awarding contracts at inflated costs, 10 per cent cuts to politicians and departmental heads, awarding contracts to preferred contractors, colluding with contractors to use their own funds to build roads, non-advertisement of contracts tender among others only signifies the key indicators of high level corruption where millions of public funds are lost to corruption.
However, the Government is not immune to corruption when there are certain departments being headed by the same people employed by the former regime.
The corrupt system of awarding contracts without following the due process is picking up momentum, with corruption detector alarms transmitting warning signals in the Southern Highlands in the recent awarding of the K50 million contract to complete the Gulf-SHP Highway.
This comes at a time when the Department of Works and Implementation does not have the financial capacity to fund all major road infrastructure in the country.
It is alleged that the K50 million contract to complete the missing link (12.4km) to connect Kikori and Erave was recently awarded to a Southern Highlands Works’ preferred contractor during the peak of the coronavirus state of emergency.
A project funded by the Oil Search Tax Credit Scheme and managed by the provincial works department.
The contract has been awarded to the preferred contractor on the provision that the contractor start the project with his own funds and later bill the National Works for later payment.
A tactic the contractor had been using in the past projects in the Kagua-Erave electorate under the former Government’s regime but more vulnerable to systematic corruption.
A bad precedent set for any future projects around the country that can lead to the demise of the organisations creditability and reputation.
Legally, the awarding of a contract to a preferred contractor is illegal in its entirety under the National Procurement Act (NPA).
The National Procurement Act centralises all government procurement and contracts so there is one filing and reporting system, greater oversight, independence, accountability and more transparency.
The law is very clear that the NPA delegates powers to provinces to approve contracts to a threshold limit of K5 million and districts K2.5 million limit.
Anything above their threshold limit will have to come to NPC for tender and NPC board approval, and any contracts above K10 million will have to go to the National Executive Council for approval.
The six principle corridor landowners for the proposed missing link road remain undivided and will continue to prevent any fake contractors from mobilising plant equipment to site unless the legally awarded contractor (any) provides a legal contract document awarded through the National Procurement Commission through the legal tender and bidding process to initiate discussion in terms of spin-off benefits.