The state of the incomplete road between the Lae Nadzab Airport has prompted the Ombudsman Commission to have consultation with responsible government departments to inquire on the progress of the road construction.
The Ombudsman Commission had three consultation meetings initially with the Project Manager and the Provincial Works Manager, Department of Works in Lae, then with the Secretary of the Department of Works and Implementation Mr David Wereh, and thirdly, a follow-up meeting with the Minister for Works and Implementation, Secretary for the Department of Finance Dr Ken Ngangan and Works Secretary on Wednesday 22 October 2020.
Given the significance and importance of the road which serves the Highlands Region, local businesses and the public, the Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen urged the Minister and the two Secretaries to have the road project completed as scheduled.
“Our interest in this road project is service delivery” said the Chief Ombudsman.
It is the Commission’s mandate to ensure that governmental bodies are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.
According to the Minister for Works Hon Michael Nali the Government has secured a commercial loan with the Bank South Pacific, from which K100 million will be allocated to complete the second phase of the road construction.
The second phase of the this 4-lane road as the Commission understands has been budgeted for; project is fully funded by the government of PNG at the value of K134,829,975.00. The contractor China Railway International was awarded the Contract in March 2017 and commenced construction in April 2019 with a completion date set at April 2021. The contract covers a total length of 7.0km between 9 Mile Bulolo Junction and Yalu Bridge.
The road project however, was stalled due to lack of funding from the government. According to Secretary of Works and Implementation, 45 per cent of the physical works have been completed, however 16 months have lapsed from the contract period of 24 months due to lack of funding.
Secretary for the Department of Finance Dr Ken Ngangan in addition said the government is having real financial and cash flow problems. He said the forecasting and projections from Department of Treasury are not real money. They are only estimates or projects which the Department of Finance relies on to pre-commit for major projects. When forecasting and projections fail, it affects the pre-committed projects.
Minister Nali whilst also stressing the importance of this road said all road works throughout the country are facing the same dilemma of lack of funding – “We simply don’t have the money” said the Minister.
He raised concerns that in order to alleviate this problem, government systems need to realigned and requested that the Ombudsman Commission provide some aid to reform the systems.
Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen in response said the Ombudsman Commission cannot question government policies, however can intervene if the policies are not compliant with desired outcome, or are not complied with by relevant agencies and breaches set laws.