Outsourcing of road design and construction paying off, says Papua New Guinea’s roads chief


Major road works in Papua New Guinea are now outsourced to the private sector, under a design-and-build model which encourages local contractors. The result, says the Secretary of the Works Department David Wereh, is improved performance.

Department of Works' David Wereh

Department of Works’ David Wereh

The main focuses of Papua New Guinea’s road building program over the next five years include rebuilding the 800 km Highlands Highway, upgrading Lae and Port Moresby’s roads, upgrading and sealing 2500 km of PNG’s national highways, and building 1400km of new ‘missing links’ roads to connect four key road corridors.

The cost is K7 billion, Department of Works Secretary, David Wereh told the 2015 PNG Advantage Investment Summit in Brisbane.

The government’s goal is have 75% of our 9000km national network in good condition by 2017, he said, ‘that’s our priority’.

To achieve this, he said, the Works Dept is outsourcing a lot of the designing, planning and construction work, as well as long-term maintenance, to the private sector.

‘Major works are now procured under a design-and-build model for a specified time by the private sector on our main highways, and it is a mandatory requirement now that we are use independent project managers.

‘I am happy to say we are seeing a lot of attitude change and performance improvement in our contractors as a result of these arrangements especially on the major projects that we are issuing.’

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Wereh said there were now 20 major contractors currently in country and more than 100 small-and-medium-enterprises operating as contractors.

‘Projects with a value below K20 million are being given to local contractors. ‘Anything above K50 million will have to include 40% to 50% local participation.’ Wereh singled out Hawkins Construction, Shamrock Civil and Golding Contractors as having successfully proven that this system can work.

‘This is the kind of arrangement we want to encourage,’ he added.

The government has moved away from use of its own forces in road construction, except for emergency reinstatement and works in remote areas where the private contracting industry does not offer a competitive alternative, reports the Asian Development Bank.

PNG’s roads: current major works


  • road1Government expenditure on national roads and bridges over the last five years has averaged K250 million, which has been 50% financed from loans and grants and 50% by government.
  • Highlands Highway Redevelopment (1000km)
  • Upgrading of major city roads to urban standard (100km)
  • Improving of critical access roads servicing 85% of rural population
  • Opening up of four Economic Corridors (1,500km)


  • ADB: Highlands roads: Cost: K1.2 billion. Another K1.5 billion 2016-2018 Rural Bridges: K 1 billion (2013-2017)
  • AHC (Australian Aid): Priority roads in coastal & island provinces including section of Highlands Highway in Morobe and Eastern Highlands Provinces. Cost: K400 million (2015-2019) Bridge Replacement program in Oro Province. Cost: K139.4 million.
  • World Bank: Upgrading & maintenance in Central & Gulf Provinces along the Hiritano Highway. Cost: K500 m 2014-2021 Hula, East Cape roads in Morobe and Madang. Cost: K500 million (2014-2021).

Recent achievements

  • Upgrading of more than 462km of national and Provincial Highlands highway redevelopment (1000km)
  • Redevelopment of Lae city roads to concrete standard
  • Port Moresby city roads including the Kumul Flyover
  • Opening up the East-West New Britain Link
  • Upgrading and replacing 48 new bridge structures


  1. Andrew Giowen says

    I agree with McNally commen on Design, Build, and Maintain Model.
    With John Anis comment on the big works human resources, PNG could use some to inspect the roads being built from 9 Mile to Pom C B D. I noted that enclosed drains are being built to the sea. If it rains and we have heavy rain and High tide at the same time, I believe there will be disaster for the residents around there.
    Finally there is not a fair share of local contracts participation. […] I personally would like to see more money spent on rural roads especially the feeder roads to open up services to the majority of PNG citizens.

  2. Wellington Warren says

    I agree with G.McNally, a design, build & maintain model would definitely ensure the longevity of roads throughout the country. I believe the Lae to Nadzab road is utilising a similar model, this could be used as a pilot project to see the effectiveness of such a model against the former. As for the DoW workforce their experiences nust not be wasted instead these expertise can be funneled into updating current road design manuals, specifications and standards eg. The last update to the road design manual was in 1994, a clause refer similar to QMR Manuals has become common place. DoW expertise can also be utilized to research and find innovative solutions to our unique engineering problems, they are more than capable of this, they just need funding and proper guidance from our developed neighbours.

  3. Suri Thomas Taisa says

    Linking every individual, family, community by roads and bridges is the way forward to improve livelihood. However, this infrastructures must also complimented and or balanced with education and health infrastructures, which must prioritized on improving literacy level from 56% to 75% as stipulated in Vision 2050. Human capacity building at all level of the sector should be the priority, and by 2050 PNG should celebrate 100% literacy (NOT 75%). Let us build more roads and bridges but also build more education and health infrastructures while we increase effort on improving human capacity and improve livelihoods.

  4. G. McNally. says

    Design & Build Model. This is fine. But for roads why not go for a “Design, Build, & Maintain” Model. Don’t think I need to expand on why this must be the way to go. It has to be a win, win, win result. Good for the funder, good for the contractor, good for the country. Have a think about it.

  5. john anis says

    What is gong to happen to the huge work force in the works department. it is a waste of human resources to keep them without performing their tasks. […]

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