05 June 2020
Chris Laore (L) and Reginald Ngati (R).

Minister warned against ‘burying corrupt dealings’


HOME Affairs minister Chris Laore has been warned not to ignore the alleged corrupt dealings of the current Honiara City Council leadership.

Vura Ward Councillor Reginald Ngati issued the warning on Thursday after Laore met some members of the council, including mayor Wilson Mamae and city clerk Rence Sore, Tuesday.

During the meeting, Laore reportedly told the councillors to settle their differences and keep running the council.

“Is the minister trying to sweep these allegations of corrupt dealings under the carpet?” Ngati questioned.

“As the minister responsible for the council, Laore cannot just do that,” he added.

“The allegations were serious so the right course of action he needs to take orders an investigation.”

Local media has been awash with reports of illegal borrowings and the obvious conflict of interest that city major Mamae and city clerk Sore have engaged in.

Sore had earlier revealed that the council borrowed $1.8 million from appointed city councillor and local Chinese businessman John Szetu.

The borrowed funds were used to purchase fire extinguishers from a Chinese company.

This comes after Sore and Mamae rushed in a new measure that requires all business houses applying for business licences to must also purchase a fire extinguisher before their licences can be issued.

The borrowing was not only illegal but also amounts to an obvious conflict of interest.

The procurement of the fire extinguishers was also not tendered out as would have been normally done.

Sore has also revealed that all the 12 councillors have each borrowed $30,000 from Szetu immediately after they came into power last year.

None of the councillors has yet to repay Szetu.

There were also issues over how and who supplied surveillance cameras the council installed at the Honiara Central market and its offices earlier this year.

Questions have also been raised about seven vehicles Mamae and Sore controversially purchased for the council when they came into power (more on this in upcoming stories).

Despite all these management and leadership issues, Laore simply advised councillors to sort themselves up and keep running the council.

Ngati said all these questionable dealings need to be investigated.

 “The call by the minister for councillors to come together and sort out our differences is not acceptable to me and I am not going down that path,” he said.

Ngati said Laore’s approach is the reason why corruption continues to persist in our country.

“We need to change from this.”

Ngati said he had consulted his Vura Ward Advisory Committee on the current issue and was told to take a stand.

 “We just cannot bury these issues when everyone is talking about it in the media.

“I really don’t want this issue to close with an open end. 

“I know the minister is a long-time friend of mayor Mamae and councillor Szetu.

“But that does not mean the issues they were accused of are to be put aside.

“We are leaders so we must lead our people with dignity and in the right direction.

“I will be writing to the minister and other relevant authorities soon on this issue.”