Ex-PWD worker discloses more details of MID contract deals
FURTHER details of how infrastructure contracts are obtained from the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) have emerged following an exclusive interview with the Ministry’s former heavy equipment and plants operator this week.
“There are officials that potential contractors must first identify. These officials hold key positions and any contractor worth his salt must know who they are when they are bidding for a contract, be it a road construction project, road maintenance, a bridge building project or a culvert laying project.
“These officials hold the key to unlock the MID’s wealth of the infrastructure industry. You need to know who they are before you even walk into the office to enquire about projects,” the man told Solomon Star on Thursday.
“You need to give them something in your first visit, starting with at least $5, 000 to the top. Others such as in accounts, procurement and so on expect their cut too in any deal.
“These officers expect you as a potential contractor to give each of them up to $3, 000 or more. You then have another layer of people to deal with – the project managers. They expect to be given between $10, 000 and $20, 000 each and they were given such payments. In turn they share the loot with key staff members so that they facilitate awarding contracts and or speed up payments.
“And this is just the starting point,” the man said.
The man who had spent 18 years with MID said every time the Ministry made a payment, these officers expect their cut.
“It is pre-arranged, on-going and is expected from every contractor,” the man said.
The man said there are good officers in the Ministry and they too wanted to expose these practices but they were too afraid to speak up.
“Naturally, they do not want to lose their jobs so they simply keep quiet,” he said.
“It is a sad picture.”
The Ministry of Infrastructure Development has not responded to serious allegations raised by the ex-PWD heavy equipment and plants operator.
The man said the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) has been infiltrated by a network of people who are not qualified, much less experienced, to carry out road works.
“These people cannot even tell the difference between quality and substandard work. How the Ministry continue to award them contracts after contracts is unbelievable knowing full well these people do not have the expertise, the experience, the technical know-how and the resources,” the man said.
The Ministry is a prime candidate for investigation. We need to reverse the trend,” he said, adding the practice is essentially playing with the future of the next generation.
“The biggest advantage these people have is the connection they have with senior officials of MID. In all these years, it is people with money or people who have connections with individuals with money that continue to be awarded contracts after contracts valued at tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money.
The man cited an example of one company, which in September last year was awarded a $2 million road construction contract, just 10 days after it was registered.
NAYA Construction and Engineering Services is owned by a Simon Wetney, a part Papua New Guinea-Solomon Islands national. It was registered on 7th September last year, its Certificate of Registration of Business Name shows. On 18th September, some ten (10) working days later the company was awarded a $2 million road construction contract, the Certificate shows.
Up to eight companies put in bids for the project to build, repair and maintain feeder-roads in the Central and West Honiara Constituencies.
The two-year contract was awarded five days before the tender period closed on September 23rd, the Secretary of the Central Tender Board (CTB), Philip Maruarofa confirmed at the time.
Mr. Maruarofa said Naya Construction and Engineering Services won the project after it was re-tendered.
“The Project was re-tendered after the Board disagreed with the initial recommended bidder. And because we really want to move the project forward, we gave bidders two weeks – from 13th – 23rd September 2020, he said.
There was no explanation for closing the tender period five days early.
Mr. Maruarofa said the CTB decided to give the local company an opportunity to participate in the road construction industry.
“They have had some experience, especially in building logging roads,” he said.
But some in the industry told Solomon Star the company has had no experience at all and does not have any machinery or equipment.
“They do not even have machines and equipment to be qualified for the project. The whole thing now comes down to the question of value for money and quality. In this case it is not value for money,” one businessman said.
Amongst senior government officials who attended the contract signing ceremony at the offices of the MID was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, McKinne Dentana. Mr. Dentana was there to counter-sign the contract funding.
The angry businessman said he doubted companies such as Naya Construction and Engineering is paying tax.
The former PWD heavy equipment and plants operator said given its connection, Naya has now been given contracts after contracts in road maintenance. Its latest project is the suburban road into the Lau Valley area in East Honiara.
He said there are two other newcomers in the industry – Exodus and APMS.
“It is good to see our people taking an active role in this type of work but safety of road users must always come first. There is no information about these newcomers and who is behind them.
The Ministry needs to come clean on this,” the man said.
By Alfred Sasako