by Bridgette Komatep – EM TV, Port Moresby
An investigation into fraudulent land claims along the Highlands Highway by a private contractor has saved the state millions of kina.
In 2014, sub-contractor, James Mara found over K1.5 million worth of land claims was fraudulent. He is part of a verification team set up by the works department to verify genuine landowners along the Laigaim Porgera section of the Highlands Highway.
10 kilometres of the 64 kilometre road from Laigaim to Porgera has yet to be verified.
With assistance from the joint security forces, the verification team, led by James Mara, were able to conduct the identification process. The verification team set up by the Asian Development Bank, through the department of works in Wabag, have been surveying the 64 kilometres section of the Laigaim Porgera road.
The purpose of the verification process is to identify genuine landowers residing along the corridors of the Highlands Highway. While some areas are under tribal conflicts, the team has managed to proceed with the support from the security joint forces.
The team had to walk along the highway to identify property structures and cash crops. But it wasn’t an easy task as the team discovered that for every 10 metres, there were arguments among the people as to who was the genuine landowner.
From the 64 kilometre stretch of the Laigam Porgera road, K5 million was paid to the people from the start of the highway to kilometre 54. The remaining 10 kilometres is currently being verified.
Inspector, Jeffery Lemb, attached the SOE Call Out Operation in Porgera has warned those attempting to defraud the state to refrain as they will not hesitate to arrest and charge them accordingly.