The Ministry of Finance and Treasury is currently processing the much awaited Gold Ridge royalty payment.
In light of a payout Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) has cautioned the 16 tribes of Gold Ridge who will be receiving their royalty payments this week to spend their money wisely.
The payment comes after almost 3 years of waiting, FSII CEO Benjamin Afuga said.
The payments will be divided into two separate lots of payments according to spreadsheets cited by FSII and confirmed by Chairman of the Gold Ridge Community and Landowners Council, Dick Douglas.
Douglas said the anticipated payment will only cover shipments 46-103, whilstpayment for shipments 6-45 requiresa cabinet decision.
“I wish to clarify to my good people that what has been processed is for shipments 46-103 only. Shipments 6-45 includes the misappropriated funds, therefore we want the government to pay them because they blatantly breached the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) Regulations”, Douglas pointed out.
Douglas said early last month, his Council passed the following resolutions;
1. Royalty payments for shipments 46 – 103;
a. Royalty payments for shipments 46-103 must be paid immediately to all 16 tribes’ nominated bank account, in accordance with the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) 2014 Regulations,
2. Royalty payments for shipments 6-45;
a. Royalty payments for shipments 6-45 which have been misappropriated by the SIG as confirmed by the Special Task Force report [18th September 2013] must be paid immediately to all 16 tribes’ nominated bank accounts in accordance with the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) 2011 Regulations,
b. SIG to reimburse misappropriated funds,
c. Settlement of [a] above is a prerequisite for the reopening of the gold ridge mining limited suspended operations.
3. Failure and actions;
a. In the event SIG fails to comply with Resolution  above, GRCLC will pursue legal actions against SIG.
The royalty payments were alleged to be misappropriated by certain top government officials. This has angered landowners and called for a meeting with the Prime Minister on 17th July 2013, during which the PM assured landowners and chiefs that he will deal with the issue seriously.
True to his words, a task force was set up by the Prime Minister comprising of AGC, CBSI, Guadalcanal province, GRCLC, GRML, MMERE, MOFTand submitted its report on 13th September 2013.
The task was to identify whether royalties were paid according to law, identify number of shipments; identify payments made by GRML, identify payments made to landowners and others. The STF was also tasked to identify irregular payments, the cause of the irregular payments and other relevant issues to the royalties.
In its report the special task force found and confirmed that there were irregular royalty payments made to certain individuals and companies and were done outside of the Mines and Minerals Regulations (Royalties) 2011.
According to the STF, a total of $18,068,278.62 has been paid to landowners. This is according to MOFT records, however actual breakdown of payments showed personal names, companies and only 5 tribes.
STF identified that only shipments 1-5 were done according to the distribution formula laid down in the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) Regulations 2011.
But the FSII Chief caution landowners to make good use of their royalty funds now that the payments make their way into tribes’ bank accounts.
“Please make good use of your royalty funds. Invest them and let the money grow because this could be the last portion. Further payments depends on the outcome of a cabinet decision for shipments 6-45 and the reopening of the suspended mine”, Afuga said.
Meanwhile, MMERE has confirmed that they have completed all necessary calculations with the landowners’ council and already submitted payment instructions to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
“It is up to the tribal trustees to ensure all required tribal decisions are adhered to when it comes to actual distribution of funds.Our duty stops here”, Douglas said.
“We have done our part and it wasn’t easy as we encountered many hindrances and challenges, so it’s your turn to make good use of your royalties”, the landowners Chairman summed up.
– FSII News