Leaders question road work funds

Lae News, Normal

The National, Thursday October 3rd, 2013


 THE cat is out of the bag on the controversial K140 million Lae City roads rehabilitation programme (LCRRP) fund that was expended over the past two years. 

It is now apparent that the money had disappeared into the potholes of Lae city roads with minimal, even nil in certain cases, evidence of actual work to show for it.

A highly sceptical Morobe Governor Kelly Naru mentioned it, Acting Works Secretary David Wereh took it up the other day and Works Minister Francis Awesa frankly admitted it yesterday.

“We have a very big problem,” the minister acknowledged in Port Moresby.

“After they spent K140 million, they’re telling us (Works) to go and fix the problem.”

Awesa was in Lae late last week and apparently had experienced the city roads first-hand.

But contrary to his honourable intentions, the long overdue admission now springs to the fore more questions, outright denials and counter attacks.

The “blame-game”, Naru warned, is well and truly in progress while further corrective measures and re-tenders continue to stall the remaining 20km of road works. 

A number of the parties, as stated by Awesa yesterday, felt inclined to have their say on the underlying issues that have evaded the spotlight until now.

Naru expressed surprise over the minister’s interjection yesterday that he (Naru) should be well informed on the LCCRP because the provincial administration was a party to the programme. 

“If that is the case, than I have not been updated and kept informed on developments,” Naru responded.

“Something is wrong somewhere.”

Provincial works manager Kingsford Kassen and acting provincial administrator Geoving Bilong could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A high-ranking administration official, who did not want to be named, attributed the fiasco to the use of what is known as the ‘Certificate of Inexpediency’ (COI) to award the first tranche of contracts.

That is an award issued by the CSTB outside the parameters of proper tendering processes because of an emergency such as the collapse of a vital bridge on the Highlands Highway. 

“There was no need for the issue of a COI for Lae city roads because they are still in use,” the official said.

The official highlighted this as one of a number of serious malpractices that contributed to the fiasco during the period when the LCRRP was managed by NME International.

Lae Chamber of Commerce president Alan McLay confirmed that the initial five contracts under stage two of LCRRP were awarded by the CSTB in Oct, 2010, under a Certificate of Inexpediency.

“I understand the CSTB’s stated reasons … was that the work was of an urgent nature and could not wait for the normal tender process, which of course is not really true,” McLay stated.