Knighthood for Borneo principal shocks former PNG PM

3:26 pm on 5 June 2017

A former Papua New Guinea prime minister has taken issue with the premature celebration of one of the country's new knights.

Martin Poh, the founder of PNG-based company Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals, is to receive a knighthood.

Sir Mekere Morauta said he was shocked to read in a local newspaper on Friday that Mr Poh was celebrating his knighthood before the award had been announced by Buckingham Palace.

According to Sir Mekere, this was a breach of protocol which underlines how knighthoods in PNG have become cheap commodities.

He welcomed Mr Poh's work on affordable dialysis treatment with the Kidney Foundation.

But Sir Mekere said a public contract for the supply of drugs awarded to Borneo in 2013 remains problematic.

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Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Borneo Pacific won the contract despite submitting a far more expensive tender than other applicants, including another major local pharmaceutical supplier and retailer.

Furthermore, due to Borneo's record of supplying substandard drugs, Australia cancelled its grant for national distribution of drugs in PNG.

Sir Mekere said it was another suspect contract awarded under the present government and a badly performing one too.

He cited reports that PNG health agencies are experiencing huge problems, delays and costs associated with the contractor and its medical supplies.

Sir Mekere said the cost of drugs being bought by the O'Neill-led government and the costly and inefficient distribution of drugs and medical supplies were causing a crisis in drug supply.

"No wonder Health Department has no money and Treasury is scratching for money every fortnight," he said.

"I have been told by honest and concerned public servants that the prices of drugs being bought by the O'Neill Government are far higher than international prices, after allowing for freight."

"Government is choosing to be ripped off," said Sir Mekere. It is clear that Borneo Pacific has been profiting to the tune of tens of millions of kina during the last four years, while people are dying from lack of medicine and medical care."

The contract with Borneo Pacific expired in 2016.

The Health Minister Michael Malabag and his department requested an extension of the contract for Borneo Pacific.

But local media reported that the Supply and Tenders Board knocked back this request, and told the department it must put out a tender in the usual formal process.

Sir Mekere challenged Mr Malabag, to tell the public what is happening with a recent tender for the supply of drugs for medical centre kits.

The two men are both contesting this month's elections in the Port Moresby North West seat.