State Lands are poorly administered
By Jariatu Bangura
The 2013 performance audit report has revealed that the allocation of state lands by officials at the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment across the country is poorly administered.
The Ministry of Lands plays a key role in land management, acquisition, surveying, mapping and planning in the country. But according to the audit report, personnel at the ministry have been grossly inept in carrying out those functions.
Accordingly, a large number of leasees who had been allocated plots, upon application, processing of the application, issuing of survey documents and pre-payment of fees for the first year, could not access their lands because the plots were already occupied by third parties, and some of these cases dated as far back as 2011.
The report states that supporting documents – application and offer letters, receipt of payments and letters of acceptance – on the allocation of state lands revealed that a total of forty-two (42) leasees at Orugu phase II, Babadorie phases II and III, and Grafton did not have physical possession of their allocated lands for the years 2011 and 2012.
The report further reveals that despite overwhelming evidence of land grabbing by squatters with no documents or authorization from the ministry, officials seem to show no inclination to take steps to exercise control over the lands and for the leasees to gain physical access to the allocated lands.
The report also says that the annual lease rent for the lease of state land was determined without taking into account the provision of section 3 of the State Lands Act of 1960, thus in the Western Area, a fixed charge of Le1,000,000 (one million Leones) was paid by leasees irrespective of the acre or number of lots allocated to them as there were instances where some leasees were allocated less than one acre but still went on to pay the aforementioned fees, while others with more than three acres also paid similar amount.
Meanwhile, the auditors also observed that there was no stated amount of lease rental payment for industrial and commercial purposes.