How absurd can you get, Mr Minister

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday November 14th, 2013

 PAPUA New Guinea will outlay a whopping K780 million to build sporting and accommodation facilities for the 2015 Pacific Games.

This is not counting the organisational and operational costs of this sporting extravaganza.

However, it can be safely assumed that almost one billion kina will have been expended by the time the Games end in July, 2015. 

The breakup of the Games infrastructure budget is: K110m for the Taurama Aquatic Centre; K120m for the Sir John Guise Stadium; K45m for the Sir John Guise indoor stadium; K240m for the Games village; K40m for the Rita Flynn netball complex; and K30m for the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. 

While time is certainly a major concern, an equally important question to ask at this juncture is the manner in which some of these contracts were awarded. 

When the excitement and euphoria has finally ended, the country will sit down and evaluate the costs against the gains made not only on the sporting fields but to the general economy and how the Games would have benefited ordinary citizens, if at all.

As the largest Pacific Island nation, Papua New Guinea will have to live up to expectations to do all within its means to deliver the biggest and best Pacific Games to date.

The drive and eagerness demonstrated by the Government and the private sector from day one when the bid to host the 2015 Pacific Games was won, is commendable. 

Everyone, it seems, is looking forward to making the event a greater success than our previous efforts when we hosted the 1991 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby and Lae.  

National pride is something you do not have to push; it is a natural part of being Papua New Guinean.

We have therefore stood behind the Government to spend whatever it takes to ensure we are ready for our visitors and provide them the best in hospitality and sporting experience in 2015.

The public, by and large, did not raise much objection to the Government’s spending the millions on a few sporting venues and a residence for our sporting visitors. 

Such an expenditure is going to be made even when vital social and economic infrastructure are crumbling all around the country and our human development indicators remain among the lowest on the planet.

Yet, Papua New Guineans are generally agreed that it will be money well spent.

We appreciate the fact that this large investment in sporting infrastructure and the related road construction and public utility services upgrading will benefit Port Moresby and Papua New long after the Games are over.

Nonetheless, our citizens should be concerned about an apparent flouting of tender processes for the awarding for the contract for the Pacific Games Village at the University of PNG Waigani campus.

Why was a contract initially worth K190 million awarded to a Chinese company at an inflated cost of K263 million?

Documents obtained by The National show that the company was not the preferred bidder, yet it won the contract at the additional cost of K73 million.

When The National was made aware of this irregularity last August and demanded an explanation from Sports and Pacific Games Minister Justin Tkatchenko, his response was that there was “nothing sinister” about the awarding of the contract.

It is understood a reputable New Zealand engineering consultancy firm did the scoping and estimation for the project, valuing it at K190 million. 

The Government, through the Sports Ministry, has chosen instead to pay a higher price and defend its decision by saying there is nothing sinister about spending an additional K73 million.

“It’s gone through every process possible to come up to this final action. People will find nothing out of it,” Tkatchenko said at the time.

How absurd can you get, Mr Minister.

And how do you explain the fact that the tender evaluation committee of the Central Supply and Tenders Board had disqualified the Chinese company from further evaluation.

Somehow, it won the contract with a K73m icing on the cake.