By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby
The Papua New Guinea government has admitted that the purchase of the controversial Maserati vehicles for use by the 2018 APEC Leaders was a “terrible mistake”.
Finance Minister Sir John Pundari made the admission when announcing that the 40 luxury vehicles — bought for K20 million (NZ$8.2 million) at K500,000 ($204,000) each — would be put on the market for a “discount price” of K400,000.
This price tag comes despite the government struggling for the last three years to dispose of these cars that were at the outset of their purchase predicted by then APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko to be sold off like “hot cakes” post-APEC.
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The sad reality is that these alleged “hot cakes” on wheels remain undisposed and idle, sitting in a warehouse in Port Moresby, in all their grandeur.
Sir John Pundari said the purchase of these high-end vehicles was a mistake as PNG currently does not have dealers to maintain them in the country.
“If we had any foresight, the Maseratis would not have been purchased in the first place. We made a terrible mistake,” he told reporters.
“If you have got no dealers of Maseratis in PNG, there was no reason to buy Maseratis, why buy the V8s as well.
‘Caught up with dilemma’
“If you had V8s you would have easily transferred the VIPs that came to the APEC Meeting from one point to another. I just don’t know the reasons we went down the path of purchasing Maseratis and now we are caught up with this dilemma.”
The government has also offered some of these vehicles to PNG’s diplomatic missions but they are reluctant to accept them because of the high maintenance costs.
“We are following the decision of the Cabinet. We made those Maseratis available for foreign missions, some have come back, some have not come back because the maintenance of these Maseratis would be in the foreign mission,” Sir John said.
“Foreign missions are deciding whether they take these Maseratis or not and the remaining ones will be disposed.”
Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan, in support of Sir John, said only two of the Maseratis and a Bentley had already been disposed of while the rest were still in the warehouse.
“We will dispose them here — we have done that several times here, and probably we will do that again — we will put them on public tender and probably dispose of the remaining ones, once the missions come back to us,” Dr Ngangan said.
He said there had been some offers made but no one had turned up with “concrete kina or dollars” to purchase them.
Sir John said the exercise announced on Thursday was a result of a Paper he had sponsored to Cabinet.
He said he was grateful for the Cabinet’s approval for some of the cars to be donated to the foreign missions where there are dealers to maintain them.
Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist.