MRD Permanent secretary caught between a rock and hard place over office rental agreements

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By Alfred Sasako

THERE’S been a bizarre twist to the lease of the motel-type building which houses the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) at Ranadi in east Honiara.

Offices of all 50 constituencies are located there, costing taxpayers $245,000 in monthly rentals in the last two years.

The lease allegedly cost former Permanent Secretary Selina Boso her job for committing the government to a lease agreement which was never budgeted for.

An investigation by Island Sun has established that the two-year lease on the building lapsed at the end of September this year.

However, it was extended by a month to the end of this month based on an agreement the landlord did not have to refund the $490,000 bond.

The Ranadi Property is owned by hardware proprietor, Chengs Construction Ltd, which operates two large hardware outlets along the Kukum Highway in Honiara.

In its investigation, Island Sun found that a two-year lease was signed with a new landlord in the city’s central business district a few weeks ago.

The lease for the new premises, owned by an indigenous Solomon Islander, is believed to be at $150,

Now the Island Sun investigation has found that the first payment for the new lease, including the bond, which is equivalent to two months rentals, has been held up at Treasury.

Reason: Out of the blue, the owner of the Ranadi Property had offered a revised lease agreement, which MRD received two weeks ago. His new price is $190,000 a month for two years.

He earlier gave the Ministry of Rural Development a typed letter, offering to lease the building for $200,000 a month.

“Now it is the real thing – a revised lease agreement, which he had submitted,” one official told Island Sun yesterday.

“There’s some monkey business going on. And the Permanent Secretary Allan Daonga is caught in the middle of all this. It’s like a gun being pointed at you,” the official said.

The problem is the Ministry of Rural Development has already signed a new lease agreement with a new tenant. Now Mr Daonga is being placed between a rock and a hard place,” the official said.

“It is not clear what Mr Daonga is going to do. His problem is that he cannot commit the government to two leases for the same thing. But the pressure to renew the current lease is building up,” the official said.

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