Fire deal explained

Honiara City Council Clerk Rence Sore. Photo: Charles Kadamana
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HONIARA City Clerk Rence Sore has broken his silence to clear the controversial deal fire extinguisher procurement arrangement with Chinese company, Jingsan Anbao Firefighting Company Limited.

He said the deal was for good intention to save lives and properties within the city following a fire incident when Motor Corporation was burnt down in September last year.

City council has been under the spotlight in recent weeks when the former chairman of finance Willie Billy Abae made a call to investigate the uncounted revenue collected for sale of Fire Extinguisher following his sacking.

To shed some light Mr Sore told local media yesterday that initially the idea to introduce fire extinguishers came out on September 7, 2019 when they attended Solomon Islands Football Federation (Under 23) Corporate Table Dinner at Point Cruz Yatch club.

He said on the event some members of the HCC Executive and Council Core Coordinating Committee (4cs) were attending the corporate dinner when a fire incident happened and that is when they start discussing the issue of Fire Extinguishers to protect properties and lives in the City.

He said the 4Cs then agreed to take the matter of Fire Extinguishers forward.

A day later on September 8 and onwards consultation amongst the 4Cs on the issue continued so as consultations with the other councillors had also commenced.

Sore said consultative consensus was reached to formalise the matter of fire extinguishers and a Public Private Partnership (PPP) was agreed to as a way forward.

In this process, the mayor and the clerk were consulted to progress the matter of fire extinguishers.

Sore revealed that on November 15 last year a PPP Agreement was signed with Jingsan Anbao Firefighting Company Ltd of China on trial basis.

On November 18 a purchase order was signed between the company and HCC and eight days later a purchase order was signed between the two parties.

The media was told yesterday afternoon that two containers had been ordered but only half of the first one container has been sold.

On November 30, Jingsan invoiced HCC and a day later an international transfer of $1.8m was paid to the supplier.

Sore reveals that by the end of last year, the Council had no money to pay for the fire extinguishers so they approached appointed councillor John Szetu so that they could borrow money from.

Sore said Szetu agreed to support in good faith and HCC would refund his money.

The City Clerk adds refund attracts no interest and Szetu was never part of the PPP signed between HCC and Jingsan.

“So, we signed an agreement and he gave us $1.8m,” he said.

“He came to our rescue,” said Sore.

In fact, Szetu had acted in good faith and gave his own money to the council to purchase those fire extinguishers, said Sore.

Sore maintains that the HCC Approved Fire Extinguishers were consultatively agreed and recommended to the City Mayor by the 4Cs and him being the city clerk as expected administratively implement the recommendation.

Sore said HCC is engaging a legal firm to represent and to clear out its name that was defamed by the mainstream and social media.

The City Clerk said they are engaging a private law firm because the Attorney-General’s Office is busy with COVID-19 pandemic measures.

When asked whether the deal went through a tender process, he said it is a trial project, so they signed the Public-Private Partnership programme with testing in mind.

“So, we identified the most suitable partner and signed the partnership.

He also explains that company was identity following a thoughtful search through online considering the price and quality of the products.

He said if the trial does not work out well, they will look for other suitable company to supply the fire extinguisher.