O’Neill backs MRDC

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, December 16, 2010

FINANCE and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday reiterated cabinet decision over the appointment of Mineral Resource Development Company (MRDC) to facilitate MoA payments for the LNG project in Southern Highlands.
O’Neill said he had nothing to do with the decision and his job was to ensure accountability and transparency was maintained.
The treasurer made known the government’s stand after people, especially landowners from the LNG project area, fronted up again at the Vulupindi Haus yesterday demanding that they be paid their MoA and other ministerial commitments derived from Kokopo umbrella benefits sharing agreement forum.
He said it was up to cabinet to look at the grievances and decide on them.
However, O’Neill said all outstanding commitments would be paid but processes had to be followed as they were dealing with public funds.
On Tuesday, more than 200 landowners gathered at Vulupindi Haus asking for their MoA funds because they did not want MRDC to take charge of the payment.
Yesterday, several disgruntled oil and gas project landowners warned that the government had until tomorrow to settle all outstanding MoA commitments.
Landowner representatives Thomas Taiya Ambi (chairman of JB Karai from Hides PDL 1), chief of Angore Takipe Karaya and chief of Agore and Tagali LLG president Handape Tuluya said that they were fed up with the government’s continuous excuses.
“We cannot allow the government to continue with its excuses.
“It has until Friday to pay us,” they said.
O’Neill on Tuesday said UBSA and LBBSA commitments would be managed by the ministerial economic committee and the Finance Department and payments would be done at project sites and not in Port Moresby.
He said MRDC would take overall charge.
He said payments would be done in a structured process that the government had put in place.
“We are not depriving genuine landowners. Funds will be paid at project sites.”
Government sources said MRDC would design a system that strict financial procedures would be followed before funds were accessed for projects.
This included complying with the Public Finance Management Act and public tender procedures.
“MoA funds have been wasted and squandered in the past. We cannot allow this to continue.”