PNG police minister calls for probe into Maseratis deal

2:40 pm on 21 June 2019

Papua New Guinea's Police Minister is pushing for an investigation into the procurement of luxury cars for last year's APEC summit.

The government imported fleets of Maserati and Bentley cars for use in transporting dignitaries at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders meeting in Port Moresby last November.

From left: PNG's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC leaders summit in Port Moresby, 17 November 2018.

From left: PNG's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC leaders summit in Port Moresby, 17 November 2018. Photo: APEC Papua New Guinea Media team

Bryan Kramer, who was appointed as police minister this month, told local media he will file a complaint on the process behind procurement of the vehicles.

It was a controversial purchase for its apparent extravagance while PNG citizens struggle for basic health and education services across the country.

Assurances from the minister in charge of APEC, Justin Tkatchenko, that the cars would be onsold after APEC only added to public outrage.

The luxury cars, which were priced at about $US10 million, are understood to be mostly sitting unused in a Moresby parking lot. In the event, a number of APEC leaders, including New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, opted not to travel in them while at the summit.

A range of vehicles were APEC vehicles bought for APEC, but the government has faced difficulties accounting for them all.

Mr Kramer has questioned whether the vehicle purchase followed Public Finance Act rules on procuring from overseas. The Act also requires any State assets to be acquired or disposed of by calling for public tender.

However, Mr Kramer has claimed there was a lack of transparency by the former Peter O'Neill-led government over the process.

Australia's Defence Minister Marise Payne (fifth from left) meets PNG Prime Minister James Marape (next to Ms Payne) and members of his government.

Australia's Defence Minister Marise Payne meets PNG Prime Minister James Marape and members of his government, including Police Minister Bryan Kramer (third from right) and Housing and Urban Development Minister Justin Tkatchenko (to Mr Kramer's right). Photo: PNG PM Media

Earlier this year, Mr Tkatchenko said that the government would account for all funds spent on hosting APEC, and that a report would be tabled in parliament in due course.

In the interim, Mr O'Neill resigned as prime minister following a series of resignations from his government over concerns over issues relating to governance, economic management and other concerns.

Mr O'Neill was replaced last month by James Marape, his former finance minister. Mr Marape's new government coalition contains many MPs who were part of Mr O'Neill's government, of which Mr Kramer was a trenchant critic.

Now part of government for the first time, Mr Kramer sits at the cabinet table alongside various ministers whose projects he has vigorously criticised in public previously.

The minister stressed that he doesn't have the power to control police investigations. But he is now a position to push more for accountability on controversial dealings by politicians.

However, RNZ Pacific has learnt from sources in PNG that the country's National Intelligence Organisation has discovered a plot against Mr Kramer, although details are not available.

While ruffling feathers by questioning the business model of PNG politicians has earned Mr Kramer some powerful enemies, he appears to have the backing of the new prime minister.

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