December 17, 2018

PNG Watchdog keeps close eye on APEC assets

The leadership watchdog, Ombudsman Commission, has given the government until tomorrow to account for and lock up APEC assets and not dispose them without approval.

These assets include the Maseratis and Bentleys, buses and other assets acquired by the State for use during APEC 2018 which culminated in the Leaders’ Summit last month. Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick, Ombudsman Richard Pagen and Ombudsman Kevin Kepore recently put out a statement which they had served on the government with direction notices to all relevant agencies.

The Ombudsman Commission confirmed last Friday that the government had asked for an extension of time which expires tomorrow, December 18.

Chief Secretary to Government Isaac Lupari said the government wanted more time to finalise the APEC inventory which they would present to the Ombudsman Commission.

He also said that the Cabinet also needed to make a decision on which assets to give to the churches, schools and provinces, among others, before a final list would be given to the Ombudsman Commission.

Last week, the government also advertised through the Central Supplies and Tenders Board for all APEC assets to be returned. A list of inventories is currently being finalized according to Lupari.

Last month, on November 2, the Ombudsman Commission issued a direction under section 27(4) of the Constitution to protect all assets that the government had acquired for the hosting of the 2018 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in PNG.

The direction was issued on Monday, November 19, and was served to executives, including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, APEC 2018 PNG Coordination Authority chief executive Chris Hawkins, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan, also in his capacity as acting chairman of the Central Supply and Tenders Board. Dick and Pagen said that the purpose of the constitutional direction was to ensure that before these assets were dealt with, all relevant laws, policies and guidelines for dealing with these assets were complied with. They said requirements under the Public Finance (Management) Act 1995 and the Public Finance (Management) Act 2016 must be complied with unless the commission advised otherwise.

The Government agreed to that effect and would be addressing this when the inventory was undertaken. Lupari told the Post-Courier last Friday that the Central Supplies and Tenders Board would advertise the assets for disposal only after Cabinet made its decision on which items to dispose off.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan has confirmed that all APEC assets bound for tender will be put on public offer starting this week.

Dr Ngangan made these remarks last Friday during a media event to officially close government accounts for the year.

The Secretary for Finance said that the disposal of APEC assets was indeed a matter of grave importance and that there was much public interest in how these assets would be handled.

Dr Ngangan said that as the chairman of Central Supply and Tenders Board, he would ensure all APEC acquired assets were first fully indentified and accounted for before beginning the public tendering process.

He admitted that advertisements and other moves were being made to herald the pending public offering of said assets but that these processes were now being finalised with advertisements for bids expected to be published in the newspapers this week.

“Assets donated by donors are a different subject altogether. Most donors have indicated that they do not want their donated assets to be sold so we shall identify and list all these assets and have the list brought before Cabinet to decide how to disburse these items,” said Dr Ngangan.

Minister for Finance James Marape who was also present, said that he was happy with the way the ministry had conducted itself this year even with the heavy-handed APEC meet and was certain that all APEC assets would be accounted for and made available for public bidding by this week.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

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