Works drains off millions

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 26th April 2013


AN investigation into the Yumi Yet bridge programme has uncovered millions of kina being defrauded by the Works department and the bridging company.

The World Bank and PNG government co-funded the programme.

Works Minister Francis Awesa instituted a preliminary investigation into the YumiYet bridge programme after questions were raised in parliament recently by Nawae MP Gisuwat Siniwim.

More than K9 million was paid to the Works department to build bridges in his electorate by former MP Timothy Bonga.

The investigation found that the state paid about K1 billion as counterpart funding with the World Bank funded programme.

However, when the contract of Mabey and Johnsons finished in 2010, the ownership of the properties was transferred under dubious deals to the Structural Bridging Supplies owned by John Higgins, the former sponsor of the Mendi Muruks rugby league franchise.

SBS used the facilities at the Lae depot including the bridge parts and equipment which was owned by the state and was selling them illegally under dubious deals with the management of the Works department.

The investigations found that senior management collaborated with SBS and covered up the illegal deal and defrauded the state by reselling the bridge parts that was purchased by the tax payers money by the state.

The investigation report alleged that the former Works secretary Joel Luma was responsible for allowing the state assets to be stolen by private companies. It said the state paid for the bridges parts and the machineries but SBS has been selling them for K4 million by claiming ownership, defrauding the state and the people of hundreds of millions of kina and making huge profits.

The report said there was no report by Mabey and Johnson or SBS of the Yumi Yet bridge programme.

The report alleged that the arrangement and the activities were malicious and criminal in nature to defraud the state between the senior works officers and SBS. 

It suggested for a full investigation to determine the extent of the fraud activities.

It was also revealed that the senior management have also dubiously arranged for the Works yard in Lae to be used as a storage yard for Ela Motors.

The Works department is not aware of the arrangement for a private company to use the premises to store its vehicles, boats and machineries.

Meanwhile, Minister Awesa when contacted said that he wanted to clean up the mess and corruption in the department and would pursue the matter by engaging a full investigation team.

He said that the team would also call in Tom Higgins and Luma to answer charges and the failure to protect state properties as custodian of the properties in his capacity as department secretary.