Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape’s whirlwind four-nation tour did not end with the best homecoming he expected.
He arrived home Wednesday to be greeted with news that his ministry, National Planning office, and the Finance Department in Waigani, and the Internal Revenue Commission offices in downtown Port Moresby, were in lockdown due to outstanding rental debts and his workers left roaming the streets of Port Moresby.
In addition to hundreds of millions of kina owed to Nambawan Super Limited (NSL) for office rentals, the Government also has huge debts with PNG Power Limited and Water PNG, both state owned companies.
The lockdown of Vulupindi Haus was effected by NSL due to the Government failing to sign a memorandum of understanding over how the outstanding balance of K120m (US$34 million) will be repaid.
But an upbeat Marape said the government did not sign the agreement because the rentals need to be reconciled.
He said the government also has plans to build and own its own offices to avoid paying rental.
Currently, all buildings used by government departments are privately owned and costs government K300 million (US$85 million) in rental each year.
Coincidentally, the offices that were locked out – Vulupindi Haus in Waigani and Revenue Haus in downtown Moresby – are owned by public servants through their investments and retirement benefits in NSL.
One public servant groaned: “I own the building and I am locked out. Silly government. Pay your bills!”
In response to Post-Courier’s questions, NSL chairman Reg Monagi said: “Nambawan Super Limited (NSL) has to resort to locking out the State tenants occupying NSL owned properties.
“When the partial payment of K52 million (US$14 million) for the outstanding rentals was made by the State last week, NSL made it very clear that this would be followed by the parties agreeing to a payment plan for the State to settle the remaining balance by Tuesday 04 October.
“The lockouts are now in effect and will remain until the MoA is signed.
“The NSL owned offices will be opened after the payment plan is agreed upon, however, NSL will not hesitate to conduct further lockouts if the agreed payments do not occur as scheduled.”
Monagi said: “We sympathise with our members that will have their work disrupted by this lockout and anyone that will experience service delays and business disruptions during this time he added.
Marape’s three-week tour commencing with the burial of Queen Elizabeth II and ending with the U.S-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington DC, USA.
IRC chief commissioner Sam Koim, whose agency recently paid the government a total of K9.7 billion (US$2.7 billion) in tax revenue, was furious when he turned up to work Wednesday.
“The Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) regrets to inform taxpayers and the public that its headquarters in Port Moresby has been locked out by the landlord Nambawan Super Limited.
“All HQ operations therefore have been suspended indefinitely until further notice,” Koim said.
“All IRC office rental payments are centralised by the Departments of Finance and Treasury hence it’s beyond IRC’s control.
“Taxpayers who wish to pay and file, especially the Salaries and Wages Taxes which are due on 07 October, can email or visit our online payment portal via addresses provided.”
But Government Office Allocation Committee Chairman Dr Ken Ngangan, who is also Finance Secretary, said the figures released by Nambawan Super for outstanding rentals needed to be reconciled as the amount owing was not balanced.
Dr Ngangan said the records with GOAC showed K50 million (US$14 million) outstanding after K50.2 million (US$14.2 million) was paid out recently.
But NSL was still adamant they are still owed more than K100 million (US$28 million) after the K50.2 million was paid recently.