Gov’t seeks $5M

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Needed for settlement of outstanding payment of Kongulai Los

 

By Gary Hatigeva

THE National Government through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, is seeking parliament’s approval of over $5 Million for a payment to the Kongulai Water Source Land Trustees.

This was revealed in the Government’s 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill number two that is currently before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for inquiries.

Appearing before the Committee to present his ministry’s case on the estimate, Permanent Secretary of the Lands Ministry, Stanley Waleanesia explained that the $5.56Million highlighted is for the settlement of an outstanding payment, which he said to be owed to Landowners of Kongulai water source.

He told PAC that the submitted figure is the remaining tranche of payment from a total of $7Million payment that is based on an agreement that was reached between the landowners and government earlier.

PS Waleanesia clarified when questioned that the payment came out from a settlement approach the government had taken after the landowners threatened to shut down the water source following disagreements over the review agreement on the source.

The Permanent Secretary was questioned over the status of the Lease Agreement, and the payment highlighted, was part of the lease or comes under a new agreement.

According to the PS, a 75 year lease agreement over the water source, which supplies water to over three quarters of Honiara, was signed in 1981, and was also subject to a review every 10 years.

He said following the first review program, landowners expressed their unhappiness in the way matters to do with payments over the source was handled, and a notice was made then, for the closure of the water source.

The closure threat had prompted the government then, to take swift actions, where the two parties convened a meeting, and came up with the new settlement approach.

He said following the hiccups, a new deal was reached, which was where the total of $7.5Million was to be paid to the water source owners of Kongulai.

PS Waleanesia however pointed out that there were legal issues in the matter, but the government at that time, decided to accept the new deal and started recognising it through the first two trench of payments, totalling up to only $2million.

Waleanisia further explained that in the lease agreement, the Landowners were supposed to be receiving a certain percentage from payments for the source, but based on the history of the Kongulai issue, and on Landowners’ arguments, the government was blamed for not honouring its side of the agreement.

Meanwhile, the PS added that the estimate highlighted in this year’s second supplementary is but the final part of the payment, and reiterated that $2Million was already paid out, but in two trenches.

The $5million is projected under the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, through the Contingency Warrant in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2018 (2), from a total estimate of over $8Million.

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