Opposition commends OC’s report

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch has commended the Ombudsman Commission for stopping a Government transaction that would have cost taxpayers more losses than the Government’s billion-dollar Oil Search share fiasco.

Pruaitch said if the Ombudsman had not investigated a 10-year Build-Operate-Lease-Transfer (BOLT) agreement, the National Government would have agreed to pay K981.79 million annually for Government accommodation it planned to build.

Pruaitch claimed that the annual lease payment would have been more than four times the total current office rental paid by Government if the negotiation had gone through.

He said this deal was being concluded at a time when Government was in default over numerous rental payments that had resulted in the lockout of Treasury, Customs, the National Disaster Office and many other government offices.

The current annual office rental budget is K230 million.

According to the Ombudsman Commission Report titled: "Investigation into alleged improper decision by the Government Office Allocation Committee to engage Central Land Ltd to build a 32-storey Government office complex at Waigani Central in the National Capital District," negotiations commenced in September 2012 when former Minister for Public Service Sir Puka Temu wrote to the former secretary for the Department of Public Management, John Kali, to negotiate a pre-lease agreement with Naima Investment Ltd.

The report stated that at that time Naima had not submitted any proposal to Sir Puka.

Pruaitch further reiterated that the scale of likely financial losses was beyond comprehension.

He added that the annual lease payment would have been adequate for construction of the proposed 32-storey Government building which would have been owned outright with no additional lease payments needed.

It also noted that the maximum height allowable for a building in the proposed area was 12-storey.

The Opposition Leader said if the Ombudsman had not intervened, the 32-storey Government building would have been another 'white elephant' project similar to the K1.5 billion spent on the Star Mountains Hilton and APEC Haus, both of which are being built for the APEC Summit.

Pruaitch added that by the time these buildings are complete, at least 95 percent of APEC-related activities in PNG would have been completed and these buildings would be destined to be major loss-makers in the coming decades. 

Freddy Mou