Road projects face threat

Main Stories, National

The National- Friday, January 21, 2011

 KEY aid donors, partnering the government in infrastructure development, are threatening to re-direct their aid programme unless the national government moves swiftly to restore integrity and transparency in its tender procurement and financial accountability systems and processes. 

Sources within the donor community revealed last night that AusAID was not particularly keen to continue with the current manner of engagement with the government after a three-year major road maintenance contract under its transport sector service improvement programme (TSSIP), which would have started in 2009, fell through due to political heavy-handedness and interference. 

The project involved the resealing and maintenance of a part of the Highlands Highway between Lae in Morobe and Goroka in the Eastern Highlands.

Reports said in 2009, AusAID’s “no objection letter” recommended a K53 million bid by Shorncliffe, a well established and reputable road sealing company in PNG, to undertake the road maintenance project. The technical evaluation committee also affirmed AusAID’s recommendation.

However, between the Central Supply and Tenders Board (CSTB), which considered and approved the donor recommendation, and the national executive council (NEC), “the figures changed to K65 million, an increase of total contract cost by an unreasonable K13 million which is exorbitant and well outside the tender process consideration”.

“To our surprise and dismay, the names of the recommended contractors also changed. 

“The implementation of the project has been delayed and no work has started.

“We have tried to salvage the project through re-tendering but this has deliberately been delayed without any real work being done.”

The same practice had been identified in a number of other key contracts in the country. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Works Minister Sam Abal had stopped all projects which were of questionable status pending a thorough review.

The awarding of two road maintenance contracts, valued at K20 million in the highlands, had also come under question. 

Reports claimed that two contractors with no equipment and financial capacity had been awarded the projects. 

It was understood that Abal had directed Works secretary Joel Luma to convene an urgent reconciliation meeting of aid donors within the infrastructure sector in a bid to streamline the various development aid packages and leverage them against the government’s overall development strategic and plans relating to infrastructure.