Lomo in hot water
AVIATION permanent secretary Francis Lomo and his property manager David Kona are in hot waters.
This was after a contractor revealed in a report Mr Lomo and Mr Kona received funds that were meant for refurbishment of the Civil Aviation control tower at Henderson Airport.
LB Construction & Joinery, which was engaged by the Central Tender Board (CTB) to repair the tower, said in its report:
“Mr Lomo demanded $200,000 but was given only $100,000, while Mr Kona received $20,000.”
This was from the $936,633.80 allocated in the national budget in 2013 for the project.
LB Construction submitted its report carrying the allegation to the Ministry of Communication and Aviation this week.
Mr Lomo yesterday rejected the allegation.
Work on the tower, which was estimated to be completed within six months, remained incomplete to this day.
According to the LB Construction report, they won the tender to refurbish the Aviation tower after submitting their bid to the CTB in 2013.
The report said following their winning bid, the first progressive payment of $240,000 was released by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, at the request of the Ministry of Aviation, to LB Construction.
The report said of this amount, $100,000 was paid to Mr Lomo after he demanded $200,000; $20,000 was paid to Mr Kona, also at his demand; while the contractor used the remaining $120,000 for mobilization, site preparation, safety equipment, wages, transport, and other materials required to commence work.
The report said a second progressive payment (amount not disclosed) was made, which the contractor used to pay for glasses overseas for the tower.
But Mr Lomo told the Solomon Star the allegation was simply untrue.
“I knew nothing about this huge amount of money. In fact I just cannot believe such allegations. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Mr Lomo said this is not the first time allegations such as this was levelled against him.
“There are right avenues to raise such allegation. The contractor should report this to the police with facts.
“The fact about this project is simple. The contractor simply failed to comply with the signed agreement.
“The ministry raised the first progressive payment and the contractor supposed to purchase materials, including glasses that are of aviation approved standard.
“These glasses are not available in the country, so the ministry sought the contractor to order them overseas.
“On arrival, the contractor asked the third progressive payment be paid to cover costs of hiring a crane, which the ministry made it clear that it will not make the payment. Not until the work is done.
“Find funds and finish the project, then third progressive payment will be made immediately; what the contractor requested was not the ministry’s responsibility,” Mr Lomo said.
He added it’s not the allegation the contractor made that delayed the completion of the project, but the time taken to order the glasses and its installation.
However, a spokesman for LB Construction told the Solomon Star the alleged demand for payment by Mr Lomo at the first place was a major contributing factor to the delay.
“We waited since progressive work started off in 2013 and if only PS Lomo and the property manager did not demand money at first place, work would have progressed smoothly.
“We had a shortfall of what was allocated fund for the project, so we requested that the third progressive payment be made so we can proceed.
“Probably Lomo refused the third progressive payment because we did not give in to the $200,000 demand he asked for. So he refused and avoided as most of the time.
“He would only assure us that payments will be paid after the government budget is approved,” the LP Construction spokesman said
He added the property manager Mr Kona also demanded that they produce a report on how they spend the funds already paid to their company, which they gladly did.
According to a progressive report on the control tower produced recently by Manager Air Traffic Service (ATS), Alfred Pita’a, the control tower’s condition was gradually deciphered and urgently required intensive servicing and maintenance since 2010.
Mr Pita’a said in the report in 2010, they secured $2.5 million in the development budget for refurbishment of the control tower but the allocation was later diverted by those responsible to other non-budgetary projects.
In 2011, Mr Pita’a said they made another provision under the development budget for $2 million but only $1 million was allocated.
But later, they realised only $900,000 was released for the refurbishment project.
Mr Pita’a said it is his view that the contractor must continue to complete the project as it has already procured materials for the finishing and completion of the project.
He said in the report that the tactical delay and prolonging of the project was due to the ministry’s failing to honour the agreement and technical delays in payments for contractor as agreed to in the agreement.
“This report identified some contributing factors such as diversion of funds allocated under the control tower project,” Mr Pita’a said.
By BRADFORD THEONOMI