Leader of Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu, has said the Akiriki Project was undertaken in full compliance with all laws, including the Public Finance and Economic Management Act and Tenders Act.
Mr Regenvanu provided documents to back his statement from the State Law Approval, to Council of Ministers Approval for the Akiriki project to go ahead at a funding of Vt18 million.
The documents provided include: i) 6 December 2016: State Law Office (SLO) approval of the project proposal and advice to get Central Tender Board (CTB) agreement first;
ii) 28 Feb 2017: Letter from Acting Director General of the Ministry to the Chairman of the CTB requesting a sole source procurement;
iii) 10 March 2017: CTB approval for a sole source procurement;
iv) 5 April 2017: Council of Ministers (COM) approval of the CTB recommendation and for the project agreement to be signed.
Regenvanu says the article which was carried in the Daily Post on the 10th of September (yesterday) which claims that the Minister of Public Works’ “investigation team” has found unlawful conduct in the granting of this contract is therefore shown to be completely inaccurate and misleading.
He questions the professionalism and competence of the investigation team for allowing incorrect information and false allegations to be reported.
“As I have previously stated, I am concerned at the genuineness of intent of the Minister of Public Works in making these complaints, and consider that the Minister is undertaking his investigations and publicising the fact that he is making complaints against Opposition MPs for political reasons rather than any interest in fighting corruption.
“The fact that the Minister has hired so-called investigators, including a principal investigator who is at the same time an employee of his brother’s law firm, as well as a full-time public relations officer, using public funds where no such positions exist in the legislated structure of the Ministry, and that the Police are the appropriate existing authorities to deal with such complaints, demonstrates the politically-motivated nature of these so-called investigations.”
The Leader of Opposition noted he had previously expressed his concern at the even-handedness of the Police in dealing with complaints.
“When a complaint is made, the police should not be taking sides in the investigation, they should independently investigate so that at the end of the investigation, the report should be unbiased and neutral,” he said.
“The Commissioner of Police should provide office space for the investigation team or they should be housed at their office at Central Station.
“The fact that Police officers are working out of office space within the Ministry does not reflect neutrality in the investigation process.
“The fact that the police officers are shown in the same photo with Minister does not reflect neutrality in this investigation.
“That the photo also shows the Minister getting directly involved in the investigation by standing with his team next to the prime witness does not reflect neutrality in the investigation process and could even constitute unlawful interference in a Police investigation.
“I am calling on the Acting Commissioner of Police to explain why Police officers are working out of an office in the Ministry of Public Works rather than the Police station.
“I am calling on the Acting Commissioner of Police to explain the relationship between the Police and the Minister’s ‘investigation team’.
“I am also calling again on the Acting Commissioner to always ensure fairness and neutrality in the work of the Police and to diligently avoid political interference in their investigative process.
“In the case of the collaboration of the Police with the so-called ‘investigation team’ of the Minister of Public Works, it is clear that this is not happening.”