Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bomb scare shuts 'heart of finance'

LNG landowners blamed


A BOMB scare at the Vulupindi Haus in Waigani, NCD, caused government workers to flee the building yesterday, causing chaos and confusion at the public finance nerve centre, The National reports.

Service providers, hoping to get paid before the government accounts shut down for the year, left frustrated as workers abandoned their offices in the four-storey building and fled for their lives just after lunch yesterday.

Police, the Fire Service and a security team were called in to attend to the bomb scare, and the all-clear was given after two hours, but many workers had already left.

Others said they would stay away for the whole week, fearful that they faced more threats from people seeking public funds they claimed they were owed by the government.

Finance secretary Gabriel Yer confirmed the bomb scare, saying the matter was in the hands of police to deal with.

Yer was on holidays but was recalled given the situation yesterday, and to provide a brief to acting Prime Minister Sam Abal on the situation with grants outstanding to landowners.

The bomb scare was blamed on landowners from the Southern Highlands, who have been camping outside Vulupindi Haus for weeks seeking grants they claimed were owed to them by the government.

They claimed they were being owed outstanding memorandum of agreement (MoA) funds relating to oil and gas projects in their area, and business development grants.

Last week, the landowners blocked access into the office for workers, causing frustration and panic.

Some of the landowners and their leaders wanted to be paid cash in Port Moresby before Christmas, so they could settle bills and repay money they had borrowed from the “black market”.

The acting prime minister issued a statement last night, warning landowners that funds owed to them were non-cash grants for development projects in their areas, and it was wrong to expect cash before Christmas.

Abal said he had directed that business development grants, owed to landowners in the LNG project areas, would be released to selected entities before Christmas.



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