Papua New Guinea’s Government is selling 42 luxury cars bought for ferrying world leaders during the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation meeting.
The deal sparked widespread controversy in the weeks leading up to the APEC summit in November 2018.
Critics accused the Government of spending money on expensive cars, while failing to deliver basic services for its people.
But now PNG’s Finance Minister James Marape says the cars are on the market and will be sold to the highest bidders.
A new Maserati costs about $US100,000 ($140,000) – that’s some 337,000 Kina.
Now it’s a question of who in PNG has that kind of money, and wants to spend it on a luxury car in a country where mechanical backup for such a vehicle will be hard to find.
For now though, a fleet of the top-end sports cars is sitting in a hot, dusty shed in the PNG capital, until the bids start coming in.
On the left side of the shed, which is as big as a football field, sit the Maseratis that were flown into the country for the APEC leaders’ week.
On the right-hand side are two of the three Bentleys. The third has been given to the Governor-General, courtesy of the PNG Government.
Hundreds of missing cars returned
Last week, Reuters reported that Papua New Guinea police were seeking the return of 284 of the 400 vehicles imported for the summit.
The missing vehicles included Toyota LandCruisers, Fords, Mazdas and Mitsubishi Pajeros, Superintendent Dennis Corcoran, who heads the State Asset Recovery Unit, told Reuters.
“There are 284 vehicles … that were issued to personnel to use during APEC that haven’t been returned as yet,” he said, adding the luxury marques were “in top condition and locked away in the old wharf shed”.
APEC chief executive Chris Hawkins told the ABC he could assure the country all the cars were accounted for … almost.
Only two of 284 missing motor vehicles remained at large on Friday, Mr Hawkins said, adding he was “quite sure” they knew where one was and it would be recovered.
“Out of all the more than 400 cars for APEC, to have one missing, that’s unfortunate. But I think it’s better than what most people would have expected,” he said.
Since the cars have been locked up and hidden away from the public, there has been much speculation via social media that some have already been sold secretly.
But Mr Marape said the cars were all accounted for and would be sold “transparently and precisely”.
“No one is here to ship off any of the Maseratis or Bentleys, to park it at someone else’s house, or dispose [of] it in a manner that is subscribed in the financial management act,” he said.
Steering clear of the online controversy, Mr Marape said the Government wants the cars off its hands.
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‘One offered to buy 20 of them’
But even just inspecting the vehicles will cost you.
Finance secretary Ken Ngangan explained the painstaking details of bidding for one of the cars.
“Anyone who is interested in the Maseratis and Bentleys can go to the finance office and pay K1000,” he said. “Only the interested persons who paid a bid fee will be invited to come to do physical inspections.”
Mr Marape believes the cars will sell like hot cakes, but not on the cheap.
“Perhaps time will disprove me, but we received serious indication from people. In fact, one offered to buy 20 of them,” he said.
“We said ‘you are not going to buy it from me’. It must come through a process.”
The rest of the 400-strong fleet will be used for public service, Mr Marape said.
The number includes fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars and motorbikes that will stay with their respective departments.
Other cars, which include LandCruisers, Fords, and Mazdas, will be given to government departments.
“Some vehicles that were donated by donor agencies and our bilateral partners – China, India, Japan and Australia – they have placed their request to us that what they have given should not be sold,” Mr Marape said.
“They will be given to our education and health institutes.”