Agovaka withholds funds for Malaita projects

Minister of Communication and Aviation, Peter Shanel Agovaka
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MINISTER of Communication and Aviation Peter Shanel Angovaka has deferred the Cabinet paper to divert the SBD$254.5 million (US$31.7 m) World Bank funding support earmarked for various projects in Malaita province.

The funding is coordinated by Solomon Islands Roads and Aviation Project (SIRAP) under the Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA) and the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID).

The funding aims to:

  1. reseal Auki road towards Gwounaru’u airport;
  2. upgrade three bridges at Koa, Bio 1, Bio 2 and Fiu between Auki – Dala;
  3. Upgrade Auki to Dala and east road; and
  4. All roads in scope.

Agovaka told Island Sun yesterday the reason to defer the cabinet paper is to allow Malaita Members in the Government and Leader of Opposition, Mathew Wale to talk with MARA Executive government  and people in ward 2 and ward 3.

Earlier, he told SIBC the funds would be diverted after the Premier Suidani-led government refused to the China Harbour Engineering Firm to upgrade the deteriorating Fiu bridge.

However, he said it is good for Malaita national leaders to go down and hold dialogue with the MARA government and people in both wards because the projects belong to them.

Agovaka clarified that contracting the China Harbour Engineering firm was done by the World Bank and not the Solomon Islands government.

“The provincial government made their views clear in not wanting a Chinese operating in Maliata when a consultation was held with the provincial government and the ministry of communication and Aviation, Ministry of Infrastructure and Development and the Ministry Finance and Treasury,” he said.

Agovaka said the Chinese company called into question (China Engineering Harbour) won the bid because it is a world-class company.

He said it is sad to see the Malaita Executive headed by Premier Sudani rejected the company as the project was funded by World Bank.

“The tendering process is done according to World Bank standards and not the government’s process, a cabinet paper has now been brought before cabinet to have the 31.7 million dollars funds withdrawn from Malaita and back to the airport,” he said.

Agovaka adds the funds were first given to Malaita province due to the need that Auki needed such development projects.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader and MP for Auki Langalanga constituency Matthew Wale told SIBC that it is disappointing to note that the government has decided to withhold the fund.

“It is disappointing as a national leader and also a Malaitan leader that the Minister of Communication and Aviation decided to withdraw the funds from the project as its course of action, hopefully, other cabinet ministers decide against this course of action.”

Wale said the reason the Chinese company was rejected was due to China Harbour Engineering Firm was the only bidder and that their bidding price was above the price of the world bank project, also other problems with the bid documents saw the tender committee stating that the company was disqualified due to non-compliance in some of its bidding process.  

“It is totally unreasonable and an overreaction on the ministries side to totally pull out the whole project from Malaita province. The tender process of the whole project was frustrated from the beginning because the Chinese company hasn’t been awarded the project,” he said. 

Wale says the ministry should go back to the tendering process and have more companies bid for the project.

The fact that Malaita doesn’t want a Chinese company operating there should also be factored into the whole tendering process as that issue has been known for a long time.