Aviation ministry defends PS over social media comments

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A Facebook commentary criticising the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Moses Virivolomo of threatening to pullout the Solomon Islands Roads and Aviation Projects (SIRAP) from Malaita Province last week were “baseless” and “deceiving” to the people of Malaita Province.

Premier Suidani’s Political Appointee, Celsus Talifilu ambiguously claimed Mr Virivolomo threatened the Provincial Executive at a meeting in Auki Tuesday last week that he would cancel all SIRAP activities on Malaita if the Provincial Executive did not accept a Chinese Company earmarked to construct the Fiu Bridge project.

Talifilu further claimed the Solomon Islands Government through its respective ministries have already awarded the contract to build the Fiu Bridge project to Chinese company, China Harbour, a claim that is not true.

In response to these unqualified claims, Virivolomo said the consultation meeting in Auki on Tuesday, May 18, essentially helped the MPG Executive members to fully understand the components of the project, which were executed according to World Bank Procurement Guidelines and not SIG Procurement Guidelines as alleged by the Premier’s private advisor.

“We informed the MPG Executive that the SIRAP National Steering Committee (NSC) has not recommended any company including any Chinese related companies at this stage as alleged by Talifilu who deceptively claimed that we awarded a contract to China Harbour.

“He needs to prove to us any disgrace we have caused regarding the projects,” Virivolomo said in reference to the claim by Talifilu, who was not seen at the Auki meeting.

He added that the World Bank Office in Honiara could not find any irregularities regarding the processes involved in implementing the Fiu Bridge project after Mr Talifilu personally emailed the World Bank directly alleging misprocurement by SIG and demanding a re-tender of the project.

“His unqualified approach to personally email the World Bank regarding this project obviously degrades the authority placed on Premier Suidani and his Executive as intended beneficiaries of the project,” Virivolomo said in a statement over the weekend.

Virivolomo reiterated that the MPG Executive is now aware of the risks of politicizing project implementation that is not in the interest of the NSC, which is mandated to deliver subprojects on Malaita in an open and transparent manner outside ongoing politicking on PRC issues that the Premier and his Executive including his Advisor may have.

Virivolomo said the MPG is an arm of Government and infrastructure development are functions of the National Government and not a devolved function and NSC is only implementing its mandate to deliver transport infrastructure to Malaita.

He further clarified that the allegation of collusion as slandered by Talifilu are baseless and did not have evidence to impress any healthy minded person.

Virivolomo said the claim that SIG has manipulated the tender pricing to suit the China Harbour bid is invalid since the Government is guided by World Bank Procurement guidelines.

Regarding concerns that Suidani’s Executive have on tender and procurement processes, Virivolomo said this assertion is a non-issue at this stage since no award was granted.

Virivolomo is a qualified engineer and Project Coordinator in his career and has provided leadership in delivering infrastructure projects in Malaita when he was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.

These included the Manawai wharf, the Aluta Bridge, Labour based roads, Small Malaita Roads Rehabilitation-Afio and Afio-Olosu’u road, Marine and Navaids Project at Su’u and all Navigational aids on Malaita, the Auki wharf and Market, Manaoba, Auki and Parasi airports.