Loggers and other business operators owe the Western Provincial Government more than $3 million in unpaid dues, Permanent Secretary, Jeffrey Wickham revealed.
Mr. Wickham on Thursday urged companies that have outstanding dues to come forward and settle their bills.
He said the Provincial Government discovered recently that a “number of logging companies did not pay up their business licenses.”
“There appeared to be a lot of misunderstandings over the business licenses issue, resulting in non-payment in some instances.
Mr. Wickham said there are certain license fees that logging companies paid through the Ministry of Forestry and Research, adding the licence fees had nothing to do with a business license which logging companies must obtain from the Provincial Government before they are allowed to operate in the Province.
Business licenses are normally paid to the Provincial Government before companies can cut down trees,” he said.
“Many logging companies are confused about the Provincial Business Licence and Permit to operate. The Provincial Business Licence and Permits are two different things altogether,” Mr. Wickham said.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding going on amongst loggers. Our concern is when these fees are not paid. Some logging companies were even operating trade stores in their camps without a business licence.
“Without the business licence, logging operations and other businesses will not be allowed to operate in Western Province.”
He urged business operators to follow and respect Provincial Government regulations when it comes to paying up Provincial Business Licence fee and other dues.
Logging companies and businesses of various industry sectors owe the Western Province $3 million in unpaid dues. Contractor/felling and logging license holders alone owe $3,070,858.33 in unpaid license fees,” he said.
Mr. Wickham said the Provincial government has come up with measures to strengthen revenue collection. These include visits to all business enterprises in the Western Province twice a year.
“One will be during the first half of the financial year and the next will be during the second half.”
“There are many strategies we are planning that people are suggesting. At the moment we are looking at what strategy is safe for us and if the path is going to lead into more revenues to be collected,” he adds
“We just hope and trust that people are honest with all the requirements from the province.
BY ULUTAH GINA
GIZO NEWS BUREAU