O’Neill denies MoA payments amid calls for exclusion of MRDC

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TREASURY and Finance Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday said memorandum of agreement funds will not be released this week.
He said all MoA funds had been transferred to the Mineral Resource DevelopmentCompany (MRDC) to be released.
The Department of Finance will only monitor the payments.
Media reports last weekend stated that MoA funds would be released by the Department of Finance and Treasury this week.
“It is misleading and irresponsible reporting that will give false hopes to our landowners waiting for these funds.”
O’Neill said the National Executive Council had transferred all MoA funds to MRDC because of its experience in managing landowner interests.
“They know who the genuine landowners are and will process them accordingly.
“Finance and treasury have no responsibility over MoA funds,” O’Neill said.
In support of the treasurer, Juha Landowners Association chairman Hengebe Haluya yesterday called on finance and treasury officers to ensure politics and politicians were kept out of the picture when it came to making payments.
“Whether it is a politician or a governor, they should not meddle with MoA funds and other ministerial commitments derived from the umbrella benefits sharing agreement signed in Kokopo, East New Britain.
“The funds are meant for project area landowners and must go straight to them,” Haluya said.
However, he called on the government to ensure processing of payments under the ministerial commitments struck at the Kokopo UBSA are processed and paid by National Planning and Finance and Treasury.
“MRDC is a company and not a government body, therefore, it must be kept out of all payments from the K170 million UBSA ministerial commitments.
“The agreements and commitments were made between the landowners and national government and must stay that way; no politics and politicians or MRDC must be involved.”
Haluya said failing that, all matters concerning these payments must be referred back to the departments of Petroleum and Energy or National Planning and Monitoring.