So today, I went into the National Housing Corporation office in Lae with the recently appointed Regional Manager, David Augwi.
David was reinstated after a two year episode during which he was sidelined by the previous NHC management.
When he resumed office, he found another officer using the manager’s office. When he asked for the officer to vacate the office, the deadlock and the office desk was removed.
“I worked on a couch and a small coffee table that was left in the manager’s office. Until I found some money to buy by own office table.”
In the 2016-2017 period, a contractor was brought in to do renovations. It was later discovered he didn’t have a legal contract for the 400 thousand kina job.
As part of the renovations, the contractor removed the windows and the tiles but didn’t complete the job. He also removed the toilet and didn’t have it replaced.
After he didn’t get paid for the job, he locked the office. NHC staff later forcefully removed the door. Without any operational funds to fix the door, the office was left open for at least a year.
During the renovation period, the filing room that contained all the property documents was opened. One officer said today, many of the files were lost.
“This used to be the men’s toilet,”Augwi says as he stands in the middle of what is now the filing room. “It was removed don’t now we don’t have a toilet.
You can’t really understand the problem of fake titles and illegal evictions until you see the filing room.
There is no real filing system in the room where all the records of properties in Lae are kept. These important documents are exposed to elements and have been for many years. Some are still kept in ancient cigarette cartons on top of filing cabinets.
The lack of care itself has opened the organization to widespread corruption and abuse where corrupt officials duplicate titles or create new ones at their convenience.
Andrew Augwi, has a tough job on his hands, in recent weeks, he has advised various tenants on how to get back properties from which they were evicted.
He is also battling internal administrative problems, illegal eviction complaints and the lack of resources.
Like many other NHC offices around the country, the second biggest NHC office doesn’t have a registered post office box, running water or vehicles to operate.
Water PNG also slapped the NHC office with a K10,000 fine for an illegal water connection done by the contractor. A fine they have not yet paid.