BY SAMIE WAIKORI
PAYMENT of $566,000 for 32 contracted farmers and their labourers at the oil palm project in Wairokai, Malaita province, has reportedly gone missing.
The money is alleged to have disappeared within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL). It is reported that the money has been paid to 32 ghost names, who had falsely represented the farmers.
One of the farmers, who wants his name withheld, said the issue of the missing money was made known last week when officers from MAL went over to Wairokai following up on continuous complaints over payment.
This is regarding payment owed to the farmers over work last year involving transplanting of oil palm plants from the nursery.
The payment was delayed last year with the promise to be made this year after the passing of the government budget 2018. That was the last the farmers heard of the payment.
“This is where we begin to launch our complaint to MAL to know about whether we’ll still get our payment or not.
“And it was upon our continuous grievances that officers from MAL came to Wairokai to explain the payment to us,” the farmer said.
The MAL officers went to Wairokai and showed the farmers a list of names to which payment have been made. The farmers recognised none of the names on the list.
It is understood that the 32 names on the MAL list are not that of the farmers who had been contracted. Furthermore, payment have already been made to the 32 ghost names.
Each reportedly received $18,000.
“An awful moment for us and maybe the MAL officers if they were cleaned from the deal.
“Even name of a single contracted farmer wasn’t on the list. All names on the list were strange to us and we knew anything about them for sure,” the person said.
“The MAL officers were also seen to be with surprise as well when they finally knew the payment has issued to wrong people,” the farmer said.
MAL is now being accused of carelessness which has victimised the farmers, and would likely cost the ministry.
The farmers are demanding that they be paid.