Awesa directs full probe into h’way scheme

National, Normal

The National Thursday, 26th January 2012

WORKS and Transport Minister Francis Awesa has directed an investigation into all aspects of the awarding of contracts and payments for the Highlands Highway Rehabilitation Programme (HHRP).
Awesa yesterday requested chief secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc to institute an investigation, that is independent of the Works and Lands departments personnel, where allegations have been raised about “colluding to defraud the state”.
He is concerned about reports in the media on the integrity of a purported K288,875.40 contract to Mori Resources to carry verification exercise on the HHRP which is said to have cost the state millions of kina in excess of the contracted amount.
In particular, calls have been made by concerned landowner parties on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neil and Works Minister Francis Awesa to investigate the so-called NASA non-transferable license and the Works Departments computer or IT division servers and the Pitney Bowes Spears software dealings.
The investigation will also cover alleged fraudulent over-payment to ghost landowners and clans particularly covering the Chimbu section of the highway from Chuave to Waghi bridge.
Although a total of K54 million was paid out by the state, outstanding claims are about K68 million.
But an independent verification exercise undertaken by Works Department indicated that only K8 million was outstanding while about 90% of the first money paid out was found to have landed in the wrong hands, a senior cabinet source said yesterday.
Meanwhile, Nasil Lawyers this week raised concern about the non-payment and underpayment of compensation for structural and planted improvements under the HHRP for the Southern Highlands section of the highway from Wara Kagul to Wara Angula.
The law firm claimed that there were incomplete payments for contracts 13 and 14.
“Many affected structural planted improvements owners within the 40 meters road corridor of the highway were not paid and others were paid much less than their assessed values,” Nasil Lawyers said but would not reveal a figure.
He has written to the Works Department and consultant, Wera Mori Consultants to explain why there were non-payments and under-payments made.
He claimed he had been instructed to take up the matter in court.