O’Neill’s housing amnesia strikes again
The Prime Minister has recently called for an investigation into the National Housing Corporation, owing to allegations of misconduct and mismanagement.
It must be asked, why? The NHC has already been investigated, numerous times. On each occasion it was found to be systemically corrupt.
No serious reform has been implemented of the NHC. A report by the the National Research Institute explains why:
‘Political leaders, bureaucrats and their associates … have plundered that [NHC] organization of its assets and resources. It has been used as a cash cow for politicians, cronies and officials over the years at the expense of ordinary Papua New Guineans where their rights to affordable shelter have been abused through such dealings’.
Actually worse than simply failing to reform the NHC, the O’Neill government has set up an even more pernicious, alternative housing body. In response to NHC mismanagement in 2012 the government transfered all the corporation’s properties to a shadowy new organisation, the National Housing Estate Limited.
In December 2012 the Post-Courier reported:
‘NHEL has acquired more than 50 prime properties formerly owned by NHC in Port Moresby alone and will purchase 500 more throughout the country with more acquisitions to follow in the New Year’.
The paper added:
‘the Government has earmarked K200 million from the K6 billion from the Exim Bank of China for NHEL to purchase existing NHC properties in Port Moresby and other provincial centres’.
Has this improved the situation? Nope.
NHEL is in effect a private company, albeit with Ministerial shareholders, which steadfastly refuses to open its books to the Auditor General’s Office, assuming any are kept.
Nor will it open up its books to the Investment Promotion Authority, as required under law. The last annual return submitted by NHEL to the Investment Promotion Authority covered 2009. Nothing has been submitted since. This is a violation of the Companies Act 1997.
If the O’Neill government’s plan to tackle NHC corruption in 2012, was to transfer its assets to an opaque, obstinate corporate vehicle, one can only shudder to think what its next plan will consist of…