By EDDIE OSIFELO
WORK on the controversial Tourism building in Gizo, Western province is expected to continue when the Ministry of Finance and Treasury releases the payment to the new contractor.
The estimated $4 million project when completed will allow Western Province to effectively administer tourism activities in the province.
Statistic from the National Statistic Office shows that 85.4% of Australian visitors visited Munda in Western province in the third quarter of 2019, followed by 4.9% of United States of America.
However, the tourism administration was centralized in Honiara because of no office in Gizo and Munda.
The project was halted after Attorney General John Muria Junior advised the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to terminate the contract of former contractor TTC after it failed to complete the building.
TTC is owned by businessman, Leslie Tarzan Holosivi.
His company started the construction in 2018 but could not complete it.
Reports claimed the Ministry of Infrastructure Development has already awarded the project to a new contractor based in Gizo to complete the work.
Director of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Barney Sivoro said the Government could not be blamed for the current state of the project.
Sivoro said the Ministry is keen to complete the project but the main weakness lies with the contractor’s failure to complete the project.
“The amount of money paid to the contractor so far does not equate to the amount of work that has transpired on the ground,” Sivoro said.
“We halted it and talked to the contractor to complete project up to what we expected,” he added.
Sivoro said the contractor failed to do that and the ministry terminated the contract following advice from AG office at the end of last year.
“We raised payments but towards end of year, a lot of payments piled up at Finance so it does not proceed with payments,” he said.
However, contractor Holosivi blamed the government for the hold-up.
He said the whole project was a mess because the Government failed to release funds to complete the work.
Holosivi said his team could not complete this project because there was no money to buy materials and equipment to complete it.
The Office of the Prime Minister wants to see the building completed quickly because Western province is regarded as the nation’s tourism hub.
Joyce Konofilia, National consultant and adviser in the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC), said the Gizo Tourism office will be a good focal point for tourism development in Western province.
She said OPMC is waiting for a report from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to make its stand on the matter.
Western Province Provincial Secretary, Jeffery Wickham said the province is yet to receive formal instructions from the national government about the status of the project.
Wickham said MID staff have visited Gizo last year and asked the province to hold on to the land for the tourism office project after the executive agreed to give it to High Court and Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
Residents of Gizo have expressed resentment at the in-complete project since 2018 and accused Western province of not doing enough to push it with the national government.
John Tano told Island Sun in 2018 that the project is a flagship to boost tourism in the province as it will develop, promote and market tourism products and services in the province.
He blamed the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and contractors for the failure of the project.
The success of the Gizo Tourism project will allow the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to replicate to other provinces as part of promoting tourism in the country.
This article was produced from the “Economics of Tourism” training for journalists in Honiara funded by the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) in partnership with Strongim Bisnis.