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New Zealand Company left hanging by PNG Government

New Zealand consultancy left hanging after Papua New Guinea Solicitor General fails to meet her statutory duty to sign a National Court certificate for payment of work completed in June 2014. Despite a court ruling, the PNG government has still not paid its debt.

In June 2015, Wellington company Evaluation Consult (ECNZ) won its court case in Papua New Guinea to recover New Zealand $500,000 debt. Despite pressure from New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, PNG’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, and others, the PNG government has ignored the ruling. The debt has been outstanding since 2014.

After delays, in June 2016 the National Court provided the court certificate to the Solicitor General, who then had 60 days under the Claims By and Against the State Act to sign the National Court certificate – after 120 days she still has not performed her statutory duty. No reason has been provided and no communication is being returned to ECNZs company lawyers. This implies that there is currently no legal back¬-up systems to ensure PNG government pays its debts.

ECNZs Executive Director Kate Averill says, “As far as we know, no one else has taken the matter through the PNG legal system. This has been an expensive process and the only result has been to learn the PNG government does not honour its debts or comply with its own law.”

In 2014, Evaluation Consult was invited by the PNG government to support developing a national strategic sustainable development plan. “It was a farsighted initiative and important for the future of the country. The project involved working with all 35 sectors of government from forestry and fisheries through to mining and manufacturing. Ironically, it also included the law, order and justice sectors”, says Kate.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade promotes PNG as a place for companies to do business. However, for PNG to succeed as a modern economy its government must act ethically and within the law. This type of behaviour threatens national and international partnerships that contribute to PNG development.

Evaluation Consult is a specialist results-focused governance, management, planning, monitoring, and evaluation business. It has worked alongside other Pacific nations without any issues. ECNZ suggests, New Zealand and international businesses be cautious when securing contracts with PNG government requesting that full payment is received in advance and held in an escrow account operated by an entirely independent third party.

The company is once again calling on the PNG government to act honourably, comply with the court ruling, and pay its debt.
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