Minister Ngwele (centre front) with the investigation team and his First PA (far right)

A team of police senior inspectors is carrying out an investigation within the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU) on contracts issued during the term of the former government.

This investigation will continue over the next three weeks.

Acting Commissioner of Police, Robson Iavro, has appointed a team of police inspectors, led by Senior Inspector William Abiut to investigate a complaint lodged by Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Jay Ngwele and any other irregular matters arising under the Government Contracts and Tender Act (Cap 245), under MIPU.

“The appointment commenced on June 12, 2020 until the completion of the investigations into the allegations,” Acting commissioner Iavro stated in the appointment letter.

Minister Ngwele lodged a complaint to the police following discovery of alleged malpractices that involves a Member of Parliament.

Three weeks of investigations were done at MIPU, and according to Minister Ngwele, a strong warning was given to all staff to cooperate with the investigation team.

He says this warning for cooperation was also issued to the Director and Director General.

Minister Ngwele affirmed that after three weeks of investigations it was found that a Member of Parliament in the last legislature and elected again in the 12th Legislature, has been awarded contracts under a company that he co-owns.

“The investigation found out that the MP concerned has breached the Government Contract and Tender Act, that states, ‘Government Contract must not be awarded to a Member of Parliament’,” the minister alleged.

According to the findings, Mr Ngwele said the current MP is a shareholder of a company registered under the name of Prime Works Limited at the Vanuatu Financial Service Commission.

The company was registered on June 7, 2019 and is still operational now.

“I can confirm that 10 contracts have been awarded to the company last year alone and it’s illegal,” he alleges.

Minister Ngwele said there are breaches of the law under Contract Splitting 13A (1), (Tender Process) that states, “A government agency or the board must not split any single procurement requirement into separates packages or award more than one contract or arrangement in relation to the same substantially similar subject matter for the purpose of avoiding the requirements of the tender process provided by this act or any regulation made under this act”, and there seems to also be a breach of section 13A (2).

According to the complaint lodge to the police, allegations are that the MP has also breached the Penal Code Act (Cap 135), 130b, Obtaining Money by Deception, 130c Obtaining Money by false and misleading statement, 131, receiving money dishonestly and also alleged breached of Leadership Code Act section 7/24- conflict of interest, sections 16 Disclosure of interest, 22 Undue influence, and 30 offence by other person.

The criminal case has been lodged with the police and the investigation team continues its investigation in MIPU for another three weeks.

Daily Post contacted the MP concerned and he said the investigation is politically motivated and he always works under the law and will not comment further.

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