Row flares over release of Kikori MoA funds

Main Stories, National


KIKORI MP Mark Maipakai is fuming over the payment of more than K20 million in Kikori MoA funds to several landowner associations’ chairmen, instead of being routed through the joint district planning and budget priorities committee (JDP&BPC).
Mr Maipakai said K9.4 million was dished to Riddler Kimave, chairman of the Omate Landowners Association Ltd, and K8.9 million to Mark Sarong, chairman of Kikori Oil Pipeline Association, and several millions to Mesebe Landowners Association chairman Benson Wabua.
This has disturbed Mr Maipakai and he now appears to be at odds with National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, who sanctioned the payments.
These funds are for outstanding civil infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges, Kikori airport development and the Kikori Hospital development.
Mr Maipakai is upset as he had committed these funds under the JDP&BPC but they were diverted by Mr Tiensten to the landowner association chairpersons to execute.
His primary concern is that one of the landowner chairmen had received several million already but is yet to acquit the monies.
He now wants a detailed explanation on why the associations had been given the funding directly.
Mr Maipakai and Mr Tiensten are both members of the Gulf Major Projects Steering Committee, headed by Gulf Governor Havila Kavo.
On Dec 13 last year, Mr Kavo, Mr Maipakai, State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare and Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma held a steering committee meeting (No1/08) in Cairns, Australia, and resolved that:
*All outstanding funds for Kikori MoA projects be parked in separate trust accounts with the Finance Department;
*That disbursement of these funds be made through the Kikori JDP&BPC on all projects; and
*That the Treasury secretary, Gulf provincial administrator and Kikori district administrator be signatories to the trust accounts.
A letter by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch had directed the release of Kikori MoA funds to the JDP&BPC.
In the letter dated Nov 19, the PM wrote that these funds must “now be paid direct” to the Kikori JDP&BPC.
Mr Pruaitch then forwarded the letter to Mr Tiensten on Nov 24, directing him to handle the transactions as they were part of the Development Budget.
But two days prior to Sir Michael’s direction, Mr Tiensten had already instructed Planning secretary Joseph Lelang to release the “NEC approved Gulf MoA funds in preparation for the signing of the licence-based benefits sharing agreement forums”.
Attempts to get in touch with Mr Tiensten and Mr Lelang were unsuccessful.
But Mr Kimave told The National last night that due process was followed, all funds were acquitted and that he had “nothing to hide”.
Mr Kimave said he had acquitted the previous K4.5 million that the association received and today he would present another acquittal for K8 million that the association had received.
He added that “there is no mention of the JDP&BPC receiving funds under the Oil and Gas Act and under the Oil or Gas Agreements”.
Mr Kimave then showed NEC documents that back the decision by Mr Tiensten.