By LUKE KAMA
ALL rentals for State agencies and statutory authorities will be paid before December, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan says.
He issued a statement yesterday after staff of a government ministry and a statutory authority were locked out of their office by the property owner because of non-payment of rentals or lease by the Government amounting to several millions of kina.
Steamships, through its joint venture partner Kelton Investments, which is managing Pacific Rumana, locked out the staff of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Climate Change and the staff and management of the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (Cepa) from their office at bmobile Building in Waigani this week.
Steamships general manager corporate affairs, David Toua told The National yesterday that numerous attempts to collect rental arrears totalling several million kinas from the State were unsuccessful and the only option they had was to lock the office.
“Cepa has indeed been locked out by the property manager, Kelton Investments, due to non-payment of significant rental arrears, a situation that has been agreed by both partners,” Toua said.
“Our numerous attempts to collect rental arrears that totalled several million kina and stretch back as far as a year ago have all been unsuccessful, and a lockout is the only avenue left to pursue, short of taking the matter to court.”
Toua said Steamships was aware that the action was not without precedent, noting a number of tenant lockouts from commercial properties in recent weeks.
“We would prefer not to take these drastic measures and still hope that an amicable settlement of outstanding rentals can be reached,” he
“The recent provisions in the supplementary budget and comments by Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan give us encouragement that this will be the case.”
Ngangan told The National yesterday that the Government had already allocated K50 million in the supplementary budget to cater for rentals and the Office of the Chief Secretary was working on the allocation to draw down the funds.
“We have seen Government offices been locked down by landlords due to arrears and the message we gave was that funding will be made available in the supplementary budget,” he said.
“The Government has already allocated K50 million for office rentals.
“Let me assure the property owners to be patient and allow our officers to use their office space.
“We will have these outstanding arrears settled before December.”