By GYNNIE KERO
A GROUP of landowners from the multi-billion kina Wafi-Golpu gold/copper project are up in arms over the payment of K34 million in infrastructure development grants to MPs without their knowledge.
They raised their concern with Prime Minister James Marape in a petition yesterday, urging him to explain why the K34 million out of the K100 million appropriated under the PIP Budget 2021-2025 had been paid out.
Hengambu Landowners Association president John Nema said the Government had allocated K100 million for infrastructure projects identified by the landowners.
He said that on Sept 3, K34 million of that allocation was shared by all districts of Morobe except Kabwum, with the Morobe government retaining a share of K12 million.
“The funding as we understand is for infrastructure development projects in and around the impacted resource owner communities of the Wafi-Golpu project, including the pipeline landowners of Butibam and Wagang villages.
“(So) why leave us out?” he said.
Mining Minister Johnson Tuke yesterday said the landowners were right to express their concern.
He explained that such funds should not be released to individuals except for the intended purposes.
“The Government cannot release money to private individuals,” Tuke said.
“It has to be released to an organisation which in this case is the DDAs (district development authorities) which will manage and guide how the money is used.
“So the petition by landowners is to understand how and where the money (has been) used.”
Nema said Marape assured the landowner association executives that the remaining K66 million would be used to assist other development projects in the mine area.
“We are happy with his positive response. We will continue to work with the state team to push for a development forum,” Nema said.
Nema also said Marape was expected to meet with MPs from Morobe this week to find out how the K34 million had been spent.
By GYNNIE KERO