Ministry of Lands & Physical Planning


 

Message from Hon. Justin W Tkatchenko MP, Minister for Lands & Physical Planning.

The Challenges at the Lands & Physical Planning Department are very well documented and are a mammoth task. Public perception of the Department has come with so much scrutiny over the years that we must now demand the due diligence across the board going forward.
The crucial decisions that we must make must be made in consideration of their effects on the lives of our people, our landowners, and all stakeholders.

Every sale and acquisition or allocation of land must be fair and in accordance with the guidelines and policies set out by the Land Act. I understand that it will not be an easy task, but we must take these challenges on if we want to progress. This journey must start from within the walls of the Department, and will require very close consultation with Senior Management and the Professional workforce to ensure real transparent progress.

Changing Perceptions
In my immediate capacity as Minister for Lands & Physical Planning, greater recognition was required of major issues at hand, to be able to progress in our efforts to Change Perceptions of the Department.

I am proud to say that the immediate action my office took in very close consultation with Senior Management ensured that key areas of concern in the Department were addressed and are currently work in progress.

These key areas include;
i) The Extension of Time Period for Registration of Incorporated Land Groups
ii) Establishment of the Customary Land Advisory Committee
iii) Re-establishment of the Lands Fraud & Complaints Unit
iv) Reinforcement of the NCD Lands Advisory Unit
v) Re-establishment of Communications with  LEaP Information Syste Managers, Technology One.

 

i) The Extension of Time Period for Registration of Incorporated Land Groups
The National Executive Council Approved a Department Submission to Extend the Registration Time Period for ILGs, and this has given all power to Customary Landowners especially, to acquire their titles.

There is no secret about the issues that rise from disagreements amongst extended families on land ownership and titles. This official recognition through proper ILGs is a step in the right direction for Landowner group. An ILG Certificate allows for greater corporation between all parties as they work towards securing greater opportunities of livelihood for themselves and their future generations.

Our people can no longer be spectators on their own land through this recognition and can develop their own land and sought long term opportunities for the benefit of their communities.

ii) Establishment of the Customary Land Advisory Committee
A National Executive Council decision handed down under my predecessor was realised through the Commissioning and Set up of a Customary Land Advisory Committee. A very qualified Committee was established to head the Scrutiny, Assessment and Approval process of all Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL).

This is priority for National Government, and the Committee, in close consultation with my office, will ensure full implementation. SABL approvals have caused for great concern and grief over the years, for Landowners, especially Customary Landowners, and the New Committee is a step forward, in our efforts to correct and rectify the long outstanding issues related to it.

A majority of these issues have seen a lot of landowners go to court for the right to their own land, as a result of malpractice and illegality in the process of SABL approvals. Government direction through the Committee will ensure that Landowners are assured their rights are upheld and true justice is served.

The task ahead will not be easy, considering the amount of paperwork and information that will require stringent assessment. I have every confidence in the quality of experience, and the advice that this Committee will pass on over the next three (3) months. I will be working in very close consultation with the Committee to ensure that we do have outcomes in time.

The issues that the Department has faced over time are long outstanding, and these must be unearthed and addressed for the benefit of real Investors and Landowners. In saying so, there are legitimate SABLs that have and continue to develop and invest meaningfully in our people and their land. These sadly have been overshadowed by leases approved through illegal processes.
The calibre of experience and qualification on the Customary Lands Advisory Committee gives me great confidence in our expected outcomes.

The Seven (7) member Committee consists of State Solicitor, Head of Constitutional & Law Reform, and respective Senior Management of the Department.

iii) Re-establishment of the Lands Fraud & Complaints Unit
The Re-establishment of the Lands Fraud and Complaints Unit is another priority function that must deliver. This is not a new concept to the Department, after its initial setup four (4) years ago. This initiative and idea did not have the impact that it was initially intended for, and therefore resulted only in a backlog of complaints that were not fully addressed to this day.

Ultimately, the Lands Department, Management and Staff continued to be seen as a body that could not care less about doing the right thing. In all fairness, there are qualified, hardworking and honest staff who want to ensure the right thing is done through the correct procedures for real progress.

There are individuals however, who continue to tarnish this good work, through illegal dealings.
The Fraud and Complaints Unit will ensure that all concerns and complaints are addressed, in our efforts to ultimately change the public’s perception of the Department.

This unit will be proactive in the assessment and address of all issues and concerns raised regarding land and the people involved both client and officer. The composition of the Unit includes an Independent Lawyer, a representative of the Public Service Commission, Independent and experienced Officers.

While this Unit will remain an Independent body within the Department, it will work hand in hand with the Audit Section, and its existing system. Close Consultation with the Office of the Secretary, Senior Management and Staff is intended to hopefully bring better order to all divisions by their processes and procedures.

These will in-turn assures us of better Transparency and Accountability, and restore credibility in the Department. The existence of the Fraud And Complaints Unit however, is not intended to become a vindictive exercise whereby unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations, bordering on defamation, against officers or individuals will be willingly accepted and considered. The Unit officially opened its doors on Monday September 4.

iv) Reinforcement of the NCD Lands Advisory Unit
The Reinforcement of the National Capital District Lands Advisory Unit is a decision that needed to be made, essentially critical especially for all urban areas.

For years, differences between the NCDC Physical Planning and the Lands Department have seen isolated and contrasting efforts result in eventual roadblocks, and lack of progress.
NCDC and the Lands Department have not agreed on a lot of matters, and change was necessary under the Ministry.

This Lands Advisory Unit is comprised of senior management from both parties this time, with the all-important mission of securing all public space in the capital city, in closer consultation and with greater compromise. This will ensure that both are on the same page in relation to all processes of public land acquisition and security.

Land Theft and Illegal process have been NCDCs greatest challenge over the years for public space, and this Unit seeks to resolve this contentious issue once and for all. Public Reserves for Schools, Health Clinics, Sports, Recreation, Parks and Gardens, Drainage and other Public Utilities have been affected greatly around the city, due to the illegal acquisition and issue of titles for these spaces.

I have shared concerns raised by NCD Governor Powes Parkop, and have fought alongside NCDC against the illegal acquisition of public space. We are now determined more than ever to secure all public space for the benefit of our people. Port Moresby is the appropriate place to start, and it will be a great template for the rest of our centres around the country.

While this Advisory Unit will be based out of the Lands Department, the decisions and outcomes from over the next 12 months are also crucial for NCDCs plans to rebuild and upgrade public utilities.

v) Re-establishment of Communications with LEaP Information System Managers, Technology One.
The LEaP program is a National Government initiative that was established in 2010 and is based on the property and rating (P & R) system which involves data cleansing, data conversion, User Acceptance Testing and Electronic Content Management.Initial perceptions of the effectiveness of this Information system since its instalment has not been encouraging over the last four(4) years, and I am happy that we have finally managed a breakthrough in communication, and agreement.

Misunderstandings and the Incompetence of the Department to initiate proper dialogue in the past ultimately resulted in the lack of progress. Commendation must be accorded to the Attorney General, and State Solicitor for the direct involvement in dialogue for this breakthrough.

The issue of the LEaP Information System has been finally resolved, and the commitment of National Government under its 2017 Supplementary Budget ensures that the final amount outstanding of K1.8mil to the System Administrators can now be settled.What was left idle for four(4) years, has progressed to this result in only five(5) weeks. Credit must be given to the Departments for working closely together in support.

The settlement of this outstanding now allows for our team to get on with the mammoth task at hand. This partnership has also resulted in the purchase of electronic equipment, including scanners and data storage machinery, for the huge task of Registering, Scanning and Recording of all Land Leases and Titles in the Archives.

This equipment purchase was made possible through a K400, 000 commitments by Planning.
Technology one is now committed to commence Refresher and Training Courses for locals, before the hard work starts. The entry of data into the system will ultimately allow effective Billing systems for State Leases and Titles, which will in turn reassure the Department of a reliable source for Information and Revenue forecasts.

I thank Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, Attorney General and the National Government Departments concerned, for seeing through the challenges at Lands Department, and committing to our efforts to restore its integrity as an important custodian of our Land.

Conclusion
Greater Consultation is crucial for progress
Progress at the Department so far can be attributed to greater and closer Consultation amongst all stakeholders both internally and external. It is this willingness to make a change for the better within the Department that will ensure that our initial efforts eventually reap the rewards.

The experience of Acting Secretary Tiri Wanga and Senior Department Management team have allowed us to take the actions that we have taken, and we look towards the outcomes we have set out to achieve. Commitment to our Cause and with the honest duty to those we serve will go a very long way for our purpose.

Our Land is Our Life, and that must never Change.

 

 

 Hon. Justin Tkatchenko, MP
Minister for Lands & Physical Planning