Maseratigate: PNG Opposition at loggerheads with government

Papua New Guinea APEC minister Justin Tkatchenko. Picture: RNZ

PORT MORESBY, 16 OCTOBER 2018 (POST COURIER) – The Papua New Guinea government and opposition leaders were still at loggerheads over Maseratigate last night as barbs were traded on social media and via mainstream connections.

Amid the drama since the arrival of 40 brand new Maserati cars from Italy last week for the APEC Leaders Summit in Port Moresby next month, the point of contention is the price tag of K1m per car and the ownership of the sports cars.

The government maintains the cars have all being paid for by the private sector and that ‘they are selling like hot cakes’ according to APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko.

However, Tkatchenko told ABC that the APEC Authority had paid for the fleet.

“All costs will be recovered and there will be no cost to the state whatsoever at the end of the day,” he said.

In a statement released on 10 October 2018, Tkatchenko stated that “Maserati Quattroporte sedans have been secured and delivered, and are being committed to be paid for by the private sector.”

But Madang Open MP and outspoken critic Bryan Kramer slammed the purchase as ‘extravagant’ and is leading an Opposition plan to ask public and private sector workers to stage a stop work protest on Thursday and Friday.

Last night, PNG Trade Union Congress President John Paska weighed in on the argument calling for opposition MPs led by Sir Mekere Morauta to be ‘sacked’ for ‘sleeping on the job’.

“I can relate to the condemnation. The price tag is over the top and as large purchases as such go questions raised over the sincerity, legitimacy and governance issues always arise,” Paska said.

“That said the fact remains the vehicles are here, signed, sealed and delivered. Ordinarily farm owners sack stablemen for sleeping at work. These lot should be sacked.

“The people of PNG gave them trustees to protect their interests and they went to sleep instead. The alarm bells should have been struck well before the contracts of sale were signed.”

Kramer said the custom made Maserati cars were specially flown in from Italy on privately chartered Boeing 747 cargo planes at cost of US$1.6 million.

He said the APEC Minister has not revealed how much the government has spent on the cars, nor who might be buying them at what cost.

Kramer said: “If Tkatchenko claims that the vehicles have been bought by the private sector without any cost to the State then the sale is illegal. Public Finance Management Act requires any assets of the State must be disposed of by calling for public tender. The question I have is when was the public tender called?”

The purchase of these vehicles have also sparked an outrage on social media, with Pauline Hanson, an Australian politician also expressing outrage.

Hanson is furious at PNG government’s decision to purchase these luxury vehicles while receiving around $550 million (US$392 million) in foreign aid funded by the Australian tax payer.

She said, “We love the people of PNG, but their Government stinks to high heaven over this deal.”

Madang Open MP demands the Government to come clean on how the purchases were made and who in the private sector have committed to purchase these vehicles.”

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