Inquiry to investigate failed housing project

The Minister of Justice and Community Services, Esmon Saimon, has this week appointed a Commission of Inquiry into a failed low-cost housing project by the Vanuatu National Housing Corporation and the company, International Green Structures.

In 2014, a contract was signed between the housing corporation and International Green Structures, for a Korean company GRD Corporations, to build 2000 low-cost and secure houses in Port Vila between 20 July 2015 and 30 June 2016.

But the houses were never built.

Now, the Minister of Justice and Community Services, Esmon Saimon, says the Government is making reducing corruption a priority and has appointed a commission and investigators to examine the failed project.

The commissioner of the inquiry is Marokon Aililee and the investigators are Henly Saul, Menzie Samuel, Michael Mangawai, Derek Alexander and John Killion Taleo.

Also appointed to the Commission of Inquiry are: George Andrew as chairman, Stephen Tahi as assessor and Joe Ligo as secretary.

The minister says the investigation must happen quickly and the investigators have been given three months to complete their investigations.

Mr Saimon says the Government wants him, as the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Finance to table the report of the Commission of Inquiry in the Parliament in the first half of 2021.

The First Political Advisor to the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, Jessy Dick, says, “The International Green Structures company took the Vanuatu Government to court in 2017 for the breach of an article in the contract and won their case.”

“And so, the Government has to pay over VT900,000 million for the breach of a small section of the contract,” Mr Dick said.

“This isn’t right because it is the public’s money that will be used to pay for the breach of this contract.”

Mr Dick says in the 2014 contract, International Green Structures signed off millions of vatu to the Vanuatu National Housing Corporation so the project could proceed but this never happened.

Mr Dick says the Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Johnny Koanapo, requested the investigation into the process of the contract.

“This investigation will find out who was involved in the signing and processes of the International Green Structures contract, to see if it followed correct government procedures,” he said.

Mr Dick says while the Government’s intends to pay for the breach of contract, it wants to know more about the contract process.“

“If the Government pays for the breach, it needs to identify the people who were responsible and who do not appear to have taken the decision to approve the project to the Council of Ministers and the Parliament,” he said.

“If the people investigated are found to have acted incorrectly, they will be punished. We will use this investigation to take the responsible people to court.”

The swearing of oath to establish the Commission of Inquiry was done by the Commissioner of Oath, Tom Bethuel, in the presence of the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and the Acting Director General of the Ministry of Justice.

The Minister of Justice and Community Services says, one of the Government’s current priorities is to reduce and stop corruption in every level of society, including within the government and its institutions.

Minister Saimon says because the Government’s priority is to reduce corruption, police are also currently undertaking “other investigations” into alleged corruption.

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