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Congratulations sipa on a remarkable turn around

SOLOMON Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) reportedly produced one of the finest results of corporate performance, posting a net profit of $122 million for the 2016 financial year.

It’s a remarkable turn-around for the nation’s oldest State-Owned Enterprise (SOE). Only a matter of months back did the nation watch in horror the unfolding spectacle, spearheaded by none other than Colin Yow.

Instead, he turned the reforms into a spending spree.

The level of haemorrhaging (bleeding) he allowed had never before seen in the corporate history of the organisation. He was spending wildly without the Board’s approval on every major item of expenditures he incurred in his 15 month tenure.

From rice to noodles, aircraft and so on, the man went on a spending spree that kept everyone talking. On 24 April 2015 the SIPA Board decided enough was enough. Mr Yow was given the marching order, which he smartly ignored.

It took the High Court to unseat him but only after the damage had been done.

The pleasing result for the 2016 financial year is a combination of factors involving workers, the management team and the Board. They all got their hands dirty so to speak to produce such a result.

There is another factor – the political masters. The Minister of Infrastructure Development, Hon Jimmy Lusibaea is probably the key player in this excellent performance. Every other SOE may care to learn some lessons from this collective effort.

Strong, decisive leadership with clear objective is a prerequisite for positive outcomes.

Now it seems the impending ministerial reshuffle has thrown Hon Lusibaea’s position continuing at the helm of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development into some doubt. One would hope that such a decision is done in the best interest of SIPA and indeed the people of Solomon Islands, not for political expediency.

A culture of sorts appears to have taken hold in our politics. When someone is doing the right thing, he or she becomes the target of dismissal or similar actions. In a way, it is a disease called the tall poppy syndrome, which gives little or no encouragement to anyone to do more for his country.

It is rumored in several quarters that one of the reasons why Hon Lusibaea is being removed from the Ministry is on the basis that he’s been opposed to attempts by the government to borrow some $50 million from SIPA. The Minister’s stand is a bold one, which must be encouraged.

Firstly, SIPA is not a lending institution. SIPA is probably the only SOE without a debt in terms of bank loans. It is a healthy financial position.

One would hope that despite the political pressure, SIPA, its Minister and Board of Directors, would stand firm in opposing any proposition by the Government to borrow from SIPA.

The possibility of borrowing from SIPA looms larger given that the 2016 financial results were announced by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. It is hoped that he had done so in his capacity as acting Minister of Finance.

God forbid that we should travel that path. It is unwise and certainly is not in the best interest of the nation. True the nation’s economic situation as we know it is not rosy but why should SOEs be made to pay for someone’s mistakes?

After all, only a month or so back did the government borrow $150 million from the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund in the form of bonds. Where has that money gone?

Given that SINPFU is the people’s trust fund, perhaps the government should provide members a list of where the $150 million had gone. It’s transparency and accountability at work, isn’t it?