Yesterday after the Attorney General had laid out the facts surrounding the parcel of land near the Haulover Bridge that costed the Government eight hundred thousand dollars in compensation payments, we asked the Prime Minister who also holds the Finance portfolio to kindly explain how such a payment could have gone under the radar and to explain how the system works when it comes to compensation for lands. Here is how he responded.
“There has been this huge compensation bill that’s existed for ages, certainly from the time I first got into government it must be now close to $100 million dollars. Government clearly cannot pay this sort of bill in anything like usual circumstances. What the Ministry of Finance does is to look at the request of the Ministry of Lands at budget time, they would normally ask for an extremely sizable allocation to meet this backlog of compensation liabilities. The Ministry of Finance gives what it can afford to give in any budget year as a block grant as part of the annual fiscal year allocation to the lands department. Thereafter the lands department treats with the disbursement of the budget that we have given to it in terms I would imagine of the queue and presumably on a basis that would see people being paid in accordance with their place in the queue so if you are seeking to ask me whether with respect to the individual payments to individual persons or entities to whom compensation is owed whether the Ministry of Finance has anything to do with that the answer is no.”
The main opposition, PUP has contradicted that statement saying that the Ministry of Natural Resources sends a request every month to the ministry with a list as to who will be paid and that it has always been done in that manner. We had asked Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno for a comment on yesterday’s press conference but he said he was not readily available to make one.