Friday, April 2, 2010

NLTB Raises Landowners' Ire

Fiji Times - Friday, April 02, 2010

MOST landowning units who do not have bank accounts will be affected by the Native Land Trust Board's new electronic payments of funds, says Ba Provincial Council chairman Ratu Meli Saukuru.
He said it was okay for leaders of landowning units to have their funds transferred to their bank accounts but it was a different case for landowning units.
"The thing is that NLTB should have consulted the landowners on the issue before going ahead with it because there will be a lot of problems, especially when they do not have a bank account," he said.
He said some landowning units had development projects that had funds transferred every month and it was best to stick to the manual distribution system.
Ratu Meli said the landowners had been informed of the changes but were not consulted first before conducting the changes.
Tui Cakau's herald Epeli Matata agreed with the comments by Ratu Meli, saying landowners needed time to open their accounts with the bank.
"It easier to have the usual manual system and officers distributing the funds because some of the landowning units can just receive $26 in six months and is that enough to open an account," he said.
NLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki said the manual and cash distribution system of the lease payments had a lot of disadvantages and caused a lot of problems for the board.
He said manual systems of physical distribution of cash all over Fiji was no longer economical, safe, justified or logical.
"From the end of March 2010 all payments by NLTB to the various landowning units commonly referred to as distribution units will be made through electronic payments or electronic transmission of funds. This means that there will be no cash payments made to landowners from April 1, 2010. The six monthly distribution of rents to landowners normally carried out in June and December in each year will be by electronic payment and not done on cash basis as normally the case up to now," he said.
Mr Qetaki said those who had no bank accounts must open one and there were other options they were working on based on models of payments that are already in use by the Department of Social Welfare, Fiji National Provident Fund and others.
"NLTB is considering working closely with other agencies like Post Fiji and Rural Banking facilities to enable it reach out to those in remote locations. NLTB will assist through preparation of Deeds of Trusts for and other reports to satisfy the requirements of banks in the establishment of bank accounts.
He said the change was decided by the Board and Chairman and would be implemented as scheduled and the landowners informed through awareness programs and it was important that they prepare themselves.
Mr Qetaki said the new system would have a lot of advantages for the landowners, including prompt and timely payments.
He added that payment and distribution would be easily traceable and there would be little or no problem relevant to identification of payees.
"For those who do not have bank accounts or who do not fit into the other options, their funds will be kept with NLTB until they satisfy the new payment requirement," Mr Qetaki said.

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