Govt orders further payout for inter-island ships amid counterclaim; EGovt project owes contractor Vt 27 million

Today’s “Shock! Horror!” story did not end up being the one I expected. (And that was Felix Nguyen claiming he is still owed Vt 27 million on the E-Govt project.) No, the big story is the Minister of Finance and State Law Office ordering a payment to one Captain Jenneck Patunvanu for work on the ships Northern Star and Southern Star – a payment amounting to over Vt 11 million. Vt 5 million has been paid to Patunvanu already. However, well-known maritime engineer, Captain Api Toara says it was he who did the work: the designs for the vessels are his and even the callsigns for both ships. The Govt has agreed to settle the remaining Vt 6.6 million to Patunvanu in return for Patunvanu not suing the Gov’t for Vt 19 million for malicious prosecution, when he, Patunvanu, brought two ships into the country from the Solomons, breaching regulations. The Public Prosecutor failed to attend five of the hearings in this matter. However, and it seems most likely as the result of the media inquiries by Ricky Binihi of the Daily Post, the Govt has put a stop on the Vt 6.6 million payment to Patunvanu. Will the Govt sue Patunvanu for the amount already paid out, and will the Prosecutor attend the hearing?

What I expected to be the biggest news was also carried by Post and Radio Vanuatu. As the PM was launching the E-Govt project in Parliament yesterday, Felix Nguyen, whose Erapo diggers did all the road work to lay cables, was bitterly complaining by megaphone outside Parliament that not only was he not paid, nor his workforce, and Vt 27 million is owing, but the Govt hadn’t even bothered to thank them. The launch was, as you would expect, part of the government’s political campaign of self-congratulation and thanks to China and outgoing Ambassador Cheng Shuping and the Huawei company. Government can now do what anyone with Skype has been able to do for a long time — see the party they are calling on their computer screen. Could this technology not be used in some way to ensure Prosecutions attends its court cases?

The Appeal Court has maintained the injunction against Terra Holdings and work to take over the Kawenu Beach remains stopped. The public beach area at Kawenu therefore remains available to the public. The leasehold sale of the adjacent land, the court decided, meant that there was unjust deprivation of property to the custom owners. No claimant had been consulted by the former Minister of Lands Harry Iauko when he issued the lease.

Radio News has the geothermal energy company KuTH aiming to produce 60% of Port Vila’s electrical needs from the Takara geothermal source. General Manager of KuTH, David MacDonald, told VBTC of the extent of the resource and how the source of energy is environmentally friendly and will benefit the economic activity of Efate. Over half the power supplied by Unelco can be provided by the Takara facility, he said. MacDonald sees much development possible at Havannah Harbour because of the power supply.

Meanwhile, Unelco is saying that 25% of its energy will be provided by renewable sources by 2015. Manager Tony Alvos told the PPA conference here last week and Vanuatu Times: We are the only company “to obtain the perfect mixture or blend of coconut oil and fuel that does not necessitate a big modification of the power plant.

The VNPF continues to deny allegations made on Talemaot and to protest that everything done by the Fund, including investment, “follows the procedures and guidelines on investment.” It will certainly have to do better than that. Mrs Anniva Tarilongi, manager, prattled on at some length to say that every decision on investing in the Nasama Resort at Pango was taken by the Board. They all agreed. Well, yes. But VNPF members are likely to need more proof of the wisdom of board decisions than that, and the Fund needs to makes its rules and policies better and more widely known, rapidly.

NISCOL has a new MoA and is trying to overcome problems created by recent mismanagement. Shares in the stevedoring company are now held by provincial secretaries general. And payments to provinces will be made from the department of provincial affairs. The minister says this will see power being returned to the provincial governments.

A possible source of geothermal energy has been discovered in the Erakor neighbourhood. Radio News reported two holes in the ground producing heat and steam. Land owners had been unaware of the phenomenon.