Leader of the Independent Group and Member of Parliament for North East Guadalcanal Dr Derek Sikua has labeled the statement by the Minister of Finance and Treasury on the transaction pertaining to the final settlement of the outstanding agreement with Levers Solomons Limited for the acquisition of Hells Point and Bloody Ridge and the transfer of 20 percent shares in RIPEL to the Government as highly questionable.
Mr Sogavare in a statement of response to the Leader of Opposition Manasseh Maelanga’s call for the former to provide the outline of the government’s $204-million worth of outstanding claims and invoices assured that:
“Any transaction in relation to the final settlement of the outstanding agreement with LSL for the acquisition of Hells Point and Bloody Ridge and transfer of 20 percent shares in RIPEL (Russell Islands Plantation Estates Limited) to the Solomon Islands Government will be transparently executed in accordance with mandatory requirements….”
Dr Sikua said the statement raises a lot of questions that must be answered truthfully by the Minister of Finance and Treasury.
He said what the Minister of Finance and Treasury revealed is development that a lot of Solomon Islanders, specially the Guadalcanal Provincial Government and people, did not expect to happen.
The Independent Group Leader said the questions that he would like to pose to the Minister of Finance and Treasury to answer are as follows:
· Whether RIPEL was restructured? As the developments implied a restructure of RIPEL.
· Who are the current Board Members of RIPEL and if the restructure was approved by the RIPEL Board?
· Who are the current shareholders of RIPEL?
· When was the board meeting that decided on the restructure held?
· When did the RIPEL Board approve to dispose the 20% shares and to be purchased by the Government and what is the worth or value of 20 percent shares?
· How many hectares of land are there at Hells Point and what is the value of each hectare?
· Who carried out the valuation of the Hells point?
· Why was the Guadalcanal Provincial Government not formally informed of this development?
· Was there any due diligence checks carried out by the government and who carried them out before the government agreed to purchase the 20% shares?
· What criteria did the government used to agree to purchase those 20% shares?
· Is the government assured of its “returns”, in terms dividends and rents on its 20% shares investment in RIPEL, given the poor performance of RIPEL over the last years?
· Who holds the 20 percent shares on behalf of the government? Is it the Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI)?
· Who holds the other 80 percent shares and has the government been advised that this could constitute a huge liability to RIPEL and in turn to itself (government) and tax-payers of Solomon Islands?
· Has RIPEL made any profits since its incorporation?
· Was the government assured of the “rate of returns” and viability of the new RIPEL Restructure that it decided to invest tax-payers money on 20% stakes in RIPEL?
· In any company setup, the board is mandated to decide on the sale of shares and that in any sale, an offer has to be made to a potential buyer. Are there other potential buyers?
· Did the RIPEL Lawyer sanction the RIPEL Board decision to sell any shares after the decision to sell shares was made?
Dr Sikua said the statement by the Finance and Treasury Minister that the government used Hells Point as the vehicle to purchase 20 percent shares in RIPEL is a very interesting development.
He added that without any due diligence checks by the government prior to its purchase of the 20 percent shares amounts to fraud and nothing less.
Dr Sikua said a due diligence check must be based on a feasibility study report as well as an investment study.