PORT MORESBY– Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) has demanded that Works Minister Michael Nali provide evidence that a senior Works Department officer was lying when he said contracts for road construction has been corruptly inflated.
President of the PNG Institute of Engineers Brian Alois who is Momase regional works manager, was suspended by the Works Department after making a presentation at a national planning summit on the economics of building roads in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Alois had spoken at the invitation of National Planning Minister Richard Maru.
In his presentation, Mr Alois provided details of the spiralling costs of each kilometre of road construction, saying it currently costs up to an average of K3 million a kilometre.
He said the PNG government is paying well in excess of what it should for road construction and maintenance projects, referring to inflated contract prices and deficient tendering processes.
The Works Department then suspended Mr Alois and Minister Nali accused him of lying.
TIPNG has come out strongly with a public statement saying the Department must present data to justify the suspension of Mr Alois.
“Otherwise the public can assume that this is a witch hunt by a government department terrified of truth,” the statement said.
“The Minister of Works called Mr Alois a liar on the floor of parliament.
“Mr Alois is a senior public servant and civil engineer who has given his professional opinion [and] appears to have risked his career by presenting, verifiable data in a public forum at the invitation of the government.”
The statement goes on to say that “Mr Alois's suspension over allegedly making false comments at the National Planning Summit in March 2018 is simply unacceptable.
“Speakers were invited by government to assist PNG by bringing their experience and advice to a public planning meeting. For the government to then punish speakers for doing what they were requested to do is outrageous.”
TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens said: “If ministers or other public servants disagree with the facts and opinions it is up to them to produce facts.
“Citizens expect public office holders to respect a basic principle that effective public service should be seen to be provided with integrity and impartiality.”
PNG's first female engineer Finkewe Zurenuoc said the Institute of Engineers is supporting Brian Alois who is its president.
“He spoke on our behalf,” Ms Zurenuoc said. “Brian Alois has done more audits on road infrastructure in PNG than anyone else in Works.
“He knows what he is talking about. Let the truth be told. The truth does hurt.”
You can support Transparency International PNG by following it on Twitter @TI_PNG or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TransparencyInternationalPNG