Case 4.3 – National Housing Corporation
The eviction of long-term residents of National Housing Corporation (NHC) properties within and outside the National Capital District has been ongoing in the last decade. Some families – without financial support and resources – end up at a news organisation’s front desk, hoping that press coverage will stop the eviction and enable a peaceful resolution. Sometimes it worked but most times it did not.
It was the eviction of residents in NHC-owned properties in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province last year that compelled the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to act. Local MP Bire Kimisopa criticised the eviction exercise, which he claimed targeted tenants who lived in the properties for 20 to 30 years – he vowed to lead a class action against the NHC and the State and sue for violation of human rights (Alphonse, 2016).
Mr O’Neill, in response to the Goroka MP, assured the House in August 2016 that the NHC eviction exercise will be investigated and a report tabled in the National Parliament for its consideration. In January 2017 Mr Kimisopa followed up and asked the PM for an update with Mr O’Neill indicating that he had yet to receive a copy of the report from the NHC (Yapumi, PNG Loop, 2016).
It has been 10 months since the PM assured the nation that the NHC will be investigated and the findings tabled for the MPs and the public. The promise comes on the back of announcing separate inquiries into the June 6, 2016 University of PNG shooting and the PNG Defence Force Manumanu land deal. With Papua New Guineans preparing to go to the polls June 2017 it is highly unlikely that there will be resolution to these matters, despite the assurance of the PM. Failure to hold civil servants and leaders accountable for their conduct will lead to the further deterioration of public confidence in and respect for PNG institutions.
Update as of 2018
The National Housing Corporation is a State agency that is mandated by the National Housing Corporation Act 1990 to address Papua New Guinea’s housing situation through building and maintaining of public housing stock. These houses can be leased or sold to eligible persons as deemed so by the Act. The legal premise of the latter is as per section 28 of the National Housing Corporation Act 1990. The NHC is also empowered to conduct housing research and report back to the minister. The corporation’s overarching mission is to promote orderly and economic urban development. Having such powers the actions of the NHC has had (and continues to have) direct influence over the issues of housing concerning most Papua New Guineans around the country.
The power which NHC now exercises is riddled with questionable intent. There have been attempts to deflect responsibility by the Minister of Housing and Urbanisation (Hon. John Kaupa) in press statements (The National, Jan 8 2018) saying that the NHC is not the responsible for the illegal evictions. Despite these statements, the Minister for Housing and Urbanisation seems to be forgetting that the NHC is under his department and within his jurisdiction to review and audit their actions.
There hasn’t been an inquiry launched by the government to assess and diagnose the issues impeding the responsibilities and obligations by the NHC to the people of Papua New Guinea. There has however been two reports released by the Auditor General’s Office in 2016 and the Public Accounts Committee in 2009.
These separate reports reveal gross discrepancies and also highlighted a number of issues within the NHC concerning its staff and management. It is reported that there is a breakdown of proper communication, delegation and implementation of tasks; the constant changes in the head of management has in no way contributed towards alleviating the problems arising out of the NHC. Despite numerous promises by the O’Neil government; there is yet to be a complete overhaul of the NHC in recognition of the recommendations highlighted in these two separate reports.
In around mid-2018, the National Housing Estate Limited – the business arm of the National Housing Commission was liquidated by a shareholder’s resolution. The NHEL was reported to have incurred a substantial debt amounting to K16 million with its audit not done on time. (Pokiton, Loop PNG, 2018) Although dissolution of the NHC may be perceived as progress, the matter regarding the NHC still begs for an independent inquiry to push for reform; without which proper and efficient reform cannot occur if we do not identify and understand what is wrong with the current operations of the NHC.
TIPNG and its partners should petition the government to launch and independent commission of inquiry to assess and diagnose the issues arising from the NHC. Without fully understanding the challenges that the NHC faces, the people of Papua New Guinea will continue to be at risk of being illegally evicted from their homes and may fall prone to the bad business dealings of the corrupt practices of the NHC officials.
The question still remains: how will the landowner companies involved in the deal be redressed for the K22 million loss incurred as a result of the bad business deal that had transpired between the parties involved? And being that the board of CMSS is still active (given their representation in the CMSS case in the national court), how can these landowners companies recoup their loss from MRDC or CMSS? Shouldn’t CMSS be subject to civil proceedings regarding the non-performance on their part of the agreement, and shouldn’t MRDC be an additional party to these proceedings being the trustee for the two landowner companies?
~ Reference/Bibliography ~
National Housing Corporation Act 1990
Auditor General’s Office Report (2016)
Public Accounts Committee Report (2009)
NHC not involved illegal evictions: Kaupa, January 8, 2018, The National.
S. Pokiton, New Rental Collection Approaches, August 16, 2018, Loop PNG