Engineering firm holding contractor ransom over $6m tourism project

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By Alfred Sasako

AN engineering firm in Honiara is allegedly holding a contractor to ransom over a $6 million-plus tourism project in Gizo, Western province.

And the contractor was told last week that he would have to complete the project without government funding as there was nothing in this year’s budget for the completion of the Tourism Office in Gizo.

“What happened was our company won the contract to build the Tourism Office in Gizo in 2015. But the engineering firm had never provided us a detailed construction plan for the project.

“Amazingly, the firm was paid about half a million dollars for the concept plan it produced and vowed not to provide the detailed construction plan for the building unless the Ministry of Culture and Tourism paid additional money,” a spokesman for the construction firm told Island Sun.

“You can say the plan we were given was incomplete. We had to do a whole lot of changes.

“It is also amazing that the money was paid without engineers from the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) checking the concept plan.

“We had to revise the whole construction plan including reclaiming two metres from the sea at our own costs,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the funds the company won in the contract had all been used up in paying for additional materials, including new footings for the building.

The spokesman said the company submitted a variation payment claim last year but it had been told there was no money left in the vote for the project.

“All these things have really slowed down our work. But we are doing our best, albeit slowly. Last week the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Andrew Nihopara told ‘to complete the project with my own money because the Ministry no longer had a budget for the project’.

“I just told him that we would endeavour to complete the building. It will be slow, but we will do our best,” the spokesman said.

Neither Mr Nihopara nor the engineering firm could be contacted for comments last night.

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