Sir Mekere calls for inquiry into PNG APEC Scam

Posted by Staff Reporter | October 16, 2018 | Posted in ,

The Member for Papua New Guinea's  Moresby North-West, Sir Mekere Morauta has called for a full independent inquiry into government spending on APEC, the behavior of the APEC Authority including the letting of contracts, and the cost to the nation of holding the event.

“Over the past few days, with the revelations about the importation of luxury Maserati cars by the APEC Authority, it has become clear that corruption surrounding APEC is out of control,” he said.

“We need to get to the bottom of it, and hold the guilty parties to account.”

Sir Mekere said the first step should be for the Fraud Squad and the Ombudsman Commission to investigate the Prime Minister, the APEC Minister, and APEC Authority officials in relation to the major discrepancies in the Maserati purchase, and contradictory statements by all involved.

In the meantime, APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko and APEC Authority CEO Christopher Hawkins should stand down.

The second step should be a wider inquiry into all aspects of APEC, focusing on corruption, waste and mismanagement and the impact the cost of the event has had on ordinary Papua New Guineans through the diversion of funds away from essential services such as health and education.

“The Maserati purchase is a scandal,” he said. “There is no other word for it. The most basic legal and financial procedures appear not to have been followed, and it looks to me as if there is a discrepancy of several million kina in the transaction. Why would the Government buy vehicles from Italy via Sri Lanka?

“The Prime Minister must explain in detail the entire transaction, and he must account for every toea of the people’s money that has been spent. For example, he must publicly provide evidence that a competitive public tender was held for the purchase of the cars, as required by section 21 of the APEC Authority Act. Was the purchase approval given by NEC, as required by the Act?

“He must cease the secret sale of the cars to PNC cronies and others in the private sector, and conduct a proper tender under Section 21. Mr Tkatchenko says the cars ‘are selling like hot cakes’ to private buyers. What is the price? What are the terms and conditions? Who is buying them? And yet the Prime Minister says there will be a public auction for the vehicles after APEC. Whom are we to believe – PM or Justin? They are both trying to deflect all questions, and in the process are contradicting each other.

“Did any part of the transaction go before the APEC Supply and Tenders Board? Did it go before the Independent Probity Auditor required under Section 24 of the Act? These questions and many more are a matter of great public interest and they should be answered immediately.”

Sir Mekere said the Maserati scam had exposed the broader issue of the extravagant expenditure of the Government on APEC at a time when the nation cannot afford it.

“Let me be clear. I am not against APEC,” he said. “I am against the way the Government has sucked Papua New Guinea dry to pay for it. According to figures provided to the International Monetary Fund by Government officials, PNG’s budget for APEC was about K3 billion between 2015 and the end of this year. It could actually be more; the public needs to be told the truth.”

“The fact that we have had to ask other APEC countries to help meet the costs shows that Papua New Guinea cannot afford to host APEC. Australia has apparently contributed $130 million to APEC security on top of the cost of the internet upgrade and other support for APEC; China has spent hundreds of million of Kina on APEC – upgrading roads and buildings, etc; New Zealand, the United States of America, Japan, Canada and Indonesia are also contributing to APEC security and costs.”

Sir Mekere said the opportunity cost – the price of diverting funds from elsewhere to pay for APEC – is enormous.

Cuts to departmental budgets; PNG missions overseas starved of funds – none of the recently-appointed heads of mission for example have been able to take up their posts as the department allegedly has no money for such use; foreign governments being asked to pay for PNG ministerial travel; cuts to teachers’ salaries; deteriorating health and education services; failure to immunize children resulting in a polio epidemic; a looming measles outbreak; an increase in the incidence of TB and malaria; no basic drugs or medical equipment in hospitals and health centres; a huge backlog of arrears – debts to businesses for goods and services already supplied to the Government.

“The list is endless,” Sir Mekere said. “Virtually every sector of the economy is suffering from Mr O’Neill’s cuts to pay for his grandiose and wasteful self-promoting projects in Port Moresby.

“As I said in Parliament in July, APEC was being portrayed as a king tide that will float the nation to high planes of social and economic development and drown our sorrows for good.

“It is not. It is a burden on ordinary Papua New Guineans. It has helped bankrupt the nation. It has become a source of ill-gotten gains by a favored few.” Statement 

Basil: PNG Coal power to create 300 jobs

Posted by Staff Reporter | October 15, 2018 | Posted in ,

The proposed Coal Power Plant Project to ease the power burden of the Lae city will be able to create more that 300 jobs for locals and an initial K300 million (US$91 million) to set up the project.

This is according to Communications and Energy Minister Sam Basil who said the project will produce 50 Mega watt of Power for Lae City.

Minister Basil in a joint press conference alongside Lae MP John Rosso, Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu, Lae Chamber of Commerce President John Byrne and Unitech Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Ora Renagi said the coal power plant is a very cheap and affordable form of energy source for Lae City to use.

He said upon inspection of the similar plants in Australia, the technology used is very efficient and less costs to produce.

“It will become a affordable reliable power source that will rid Lae City of its continuous blackouts.

“This means PNG Power will have an alternate source of power.”

The power plant he said will be built at 5 Mile outside of Lae City and a pipeline will run through to Lae Wharf.

“The Coal Power system will provide steam to as well that will benefit business in Lae City.

“This byproduct will generate K5 million (US$1.5 million) revenue annually for Lae City Authority and Morobe Provincial Government,” Basil said.

The byproduct of steam can be utilised by businesses such as SP Brewery, Coca Cola Amatil PNG, and other manufacturing companies instead of using diesel powered generators to produce steam.

Minister Basil said PNG can learn from Australia which uses about 70 percent of Coal power for its energy needs.

The establishment of the coal power plant will further generate employment and provide industry opportunities for business as well.

Basil said after 20 years the plant operations will be passed back to Lae City Authority and the provincial government with 25 per cent stake respectively for internal revenue generation.

Lae MP John Rosso said he is behind the concept and that Coal is much cheaper produced at 0.8 US Cents than compared to Hydro Power which costs at 20-25 US Cents.

“Of course we can utilize hydro power and solar power however we can’t always wait for this to happen In the next 20 years. We have situations with blackouts to address immediately and thus the coal power option is the way forward.

“When I looked at the facts and figures of how efficient coal power is used in Australia, it was encouraging to back the idea for the coal power plant to be established in Lae,” Rosso said.

Mayur Resources Managing Director Paul Mulder said that the Coal Power Plant will operate within Environmental Regulations.

He further said that the technology used is advanced and efficient so that it will produce less emissions to the environment.

“The environmental permits forces us to operate according to WHO Standards.”

The University of Technology will be operating a research facility alongside the company to collect data and critical information from the Coal plant power station operations and will be funded by Mayur Resources annually at a figure of K1 million (US$306,000).

Lae Chamber of Commerce President John Bryne said the business community has backed the idea.

This is because it will provide an alternate source of power and it gives confidence to investor operations in Lae.....PACNEWS


Cook Islands among TB-free nations

Posted by Staff Reporter | | Posted in

The Cook Islands is one of only eight countries in the world that did not have a reported case of tuberculosis (TB) last year.

Tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, killing an estimated 1.3 million people last year and is the single most deadly infection on the planet.

The World Health Organisation has just released its Global Tuberculosis Report for 2018, which has a country-by-country breakdown of rates of the disease.

African and East Asian nations come off worst in the report, whereas island nations are less affected by the bacterial disease.

Other nations that WHO said were TB free are Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Monaco, Montserrat, San Marino, and the Pacific islands of Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna.

Tuberculosis is spread between people by coughing and sneezing.

The infection usually affects the lungs but the bacteria can cause problems in any part of the body, including the abdomen, glands, bones and the nervous system.

In healthy people the bacteria are often killed by the immune system or at least prevented from spreading, but in some cases the bacteria can take hold and cause a more serious infection.

TB infection causes symptoms such as fever, coughing, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness and fatigue, a loss of appetite and swelling in the neck.

If the immune system fails to contain TB bacteria the infection can take weeks or months to take hold and produce symptoms, and if it is left untreated it can be fatal.

WHO has revealed the countries where people are most likely to catch the potentially-deadly lung infection in a global report.

India had, by far, the most TB cases in 2017, with 2,740,000, more than three times as many as second-placed China’s 889,000.

However, because both countries have such large populations, the likelihood of catching it is lower than in smaller countries.

Other danger zones for the infection include South Africa, North Korea and Mongolia.

Lesotho, a country contained within South Africa, comes out worst off, with a rate of 665 cases of TB per every 100,000 residents – more than one in every 200 people.

After Lesotho, the Philippines (554) was followed by the African nations of Mozambique (551) and Gabon (529).

The remainder of the top 10 is made up by North Korea, Timor-Leste in Asia, the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, and Mongolia.

Wealthier Western countries with modern healthcare are less bothered by TB.

The US had just three cases per 100,000 people, the UK had nine, and Australia and Ireland both seven.

Those with weaker immune systems or without good healthcare are more at risk of having serious complications from TB.

TB is a common cause of death among people with HIV, because it is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems – people with HIV are thought to be up to 27 times more likely to get the disease.

With treatment, TB can almost always be cured with antibiotics and people tend to stop being contagious after about three weeks of therapy.

TB is most common in less-developed countries in sub-saharan and west Africa, southeast Asia, Russia, China and South America.



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