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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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PNG Lands Department Called To Shed ‘Corrupt’ Label
Department taking steps to eliminate fraud, collect unpaid rents

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 25, 2013) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill wants to see Papua New Guinea government’s Lands department and its agencies shed the tag "most corrupt" and become a top performer by the end of the year.

And the department has set itself a target of collecting more than K300 million [US$144.8 million] in outstanding land rentals this year, with Port Moresby and Lae owing the department about K50 million [US$24.1 million] each.

These developments followed a meeting last Friday with the top heads of the Lands department and its agencies, together with Minister Benny Allen and Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc.

The meeting follows the Implementation Summit held recently at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby to kick-start the 2013 implementation year.

The Prime Minister already met heads of Works and Transport departments and their line agencies two weeks ago.

He met with top heads from the Civil Aviation Authority and Air Services Limited last Thursday.

These meetings with departments and line agencies will be held quarterly in order for the government to keep track of the progress of key projects identified for implementation by each of the departments, provincial governments and State-owned corporations.

"There is a certain perception out there that the Lands department is very corrupt. Let’s turn that around. You are an important player in our efforts to grow the economy and to give confidence to the business community. I have total confidence in your Minister and the leadership he is providing will help turn the department into a top performer," Mr. O’Neill said.

Lands secretary Kila Pat said their key highlights for this year would be to move into their new office premises in the coming weeks, roll out their computerized land registration system and collect more than K300 million in outstanding land rentals throughout the country.

Treasury has allocated the department K2.4 million [US$1.2 million] to buy furniture and other office necessities for their new office, which they will move into next month. They will also be allocated K3 million [US$1.4 million] to roll out the computerized land registration system by mid-year.

This system will eliminate fraud in land registration, such as the issue of duplicate titles over the same portion of land, a practice that has plagued the department for many years.

The department will also begin a vigorous effort to collect outstanding land rates totaling some K300 million.

Secretary Pat said their efforts were hampered by lack of funds.

In response, the Prime Minister said the department should retain a portion of the rentals and rates they collect to carry out this exercise, so lack of funds will no longer be an excuse.

"Set up a trust account and retain 50% of the rates you collect to use in this exercise. But make sure you remit to consolidated revenue the targets set in the budget," the Prime Minister said.

Secretary Pat said the department is owed K50 million in rates in NCD. The same amount is owed by the city of Lae. In the long term, the department and the government will work towards paying over K250 million [US$120.6 million] owed to landowners for use of their traditional land.

PNG Post-Courier:
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