By ISAAC NICHOLAS
THE Department of National Planning has released K20 million for urgent road maintenance on sections of the Highlands Highway although no work plans have been submitted by Department of Works.
National Planning and Development Minister Paul Tiensten accused the Works Department for failing to submit work plans for the use of the money.
However, he denied claims that National Planning was deliberately holding back funds for road maintenance.
He said the National Government had parked between K40 million and K50 million with the National Roads Authority (NRA) whose role is to maintain major roads in the country.
“What is happening to this money held with the National Roads Authority?”
Mr Tiensten said compensation was another big issue as most funds for routine road maintenance had been used for this purpose.
“There is a lot of money going into settling compensation claims along the highway and now we have no money to fix the roads,” Mr Tiensten said. “Compensation is an unbudgeted item. We cannot use maintenance money to pay for compensation.”
Mr Tiensten said the other K10 million would be released once his department received a work plan from Works.
“We do not want to release money to pay for compensation.”
Mr Tiensten said that although money was budgeted, it depended on the cash-flow before money could be released.
The minister said based on the cash flow situation, the Treasury would then release the warrants to National Planning to make payments to relevant organisations.
“We are not deliberately holding onto the money and that is why the two secretaries for Works and National Planning must sit down and sort it out,” Mr Tiensten said.
He said the Highlands Highway was a National Government priority road, with the Asian Development Bank’s multi-trance facility for Enga and Southern Highlands roads.
“We need the Treasurer, myself and Works Minister to sit down to find a way forward instead of going to the media.
“Bad mouthing each other and shifting blame is the last thing we want.
“People want us to take responsibility to ensure we address these issues as a whole Government approach.
“You should not pass the buck to me,” Mr Tiensten said.
“We should address this at Cabinet level instead of making public statements in the media.”
He was responding to Works Minister Don Polye and his secretary Joel Luma, who on Wednesday, blasted the National Planning for withholding money while the Highlands Highway remained close to traffic with landslips at Daulo pass.
Mr Luma confirmed the money was released yesterday.
“Yes we have received the warrant of K20 million which will be used to off-set costs and work on the blocked section of the Highlands Highway,” Mr Luma said.