‘Consistent failures’ places State at risk

Focus, Normal

THE Public Accounts Committee, inquiring into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning, has recorded “consistent failures” by the secretary of the Department of Lands, Pepi Kimas, and his staff which has placed the State at risk.
Repeated failures by the secretary to produce documents led the committee to conclude that the head of department has no control over his staff and cannot or would not compel them to produce documents or assist the committee.
It also meant that the department had failed to preserve, store or protect files, documents and records and has allowed records to be removed or destroyed.
The PAC further concluded that the “incompetence and outright corruption” in the department has exposed the State to the following areas of risk:
* The Government must identify and deal with illegally issued State leases if credibility is to be restored to the land registration system in Papua New Guinea. In the event that unlawful State leases are cancelled or revoked by forfeiture, successors in title, original leaseholders and the finance industry may look to the State for their remedy;
* The committee concludes that there may be many such State leases and while the possible extent of State liability is unknown, it is likely to be considerable;
* Where State leases have been issued inconsistently with zoning or planning decisions, leaseholders or successors in title have no valid lease at all. Moreover, they have a State lease document that may not allow them to do anything with the land; and
* These leases should never have been issued in the first place and the State may have a liability to leaseholders and their successors in title for initial outlay and failed expectation.
Banks or other lenders may, in the event that the State ever cancels or forfeits illegal grants of State leases, be deprived of their security for no reason of their making.