Three Government departments have been found to be operating in breach of the procedures governing land acquisitions in Barbados.
In his report for 2013, Auditor General Leigh Trotman highlighted 35 acquisitions selected from the records of the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Rural Development, saying three instances were found where the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) utlilized private land to carry out road improvements but failed to notify the ministry.
The Auditor General also warned in his 158-page report that the Rural and Urban Development Commissions have been guilty of disregarding set procedures and that their actions exposed Government to significant financial and legal risks.
During the period 1997 to 2009, the RDC constructed approximately 291 roads.
However, a sample of 20 of these roads revealed that the RDC used private land to carry out its road projects, but did not liaise with the ministry to acquire the land as required by the Land Acquisition Act, the Auditor General said.
“The agency admitted that compensation is outstanding to the landowners affected by its road projects. It also stated that the extent of the liability is currently unknown.
“To rectify its actions, the RDC needs to seek funding from Government to survey the roads constructed in order to determine the number of land owners affected by each project, and the area of land used. This information must be submitted to the Ministry of Housing to start the process of compensating the landowners,” the report recommends.
The Auditor General went further to point out that the RDC has surveyed 51 of the roads it constructed. However, the Ministry only became aware of MTW’s actions when landowners sent written requests for compensation for the land used.
“It is at this point that the Ministry sought confirmation from MTW in order to start the acquisition process,” he said.
The UDC also constructed over 225 roads from its inception in 1997.
A sample of 20 of these roads revealed that the UDC used private land to carry out its road projects and proceeded to compensate landowners, but formal acquisition of the properties did not take place.
“This agency has adopted its own approach to access land to construct roads but this is contrary to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act,” the Auditor General said.
He noted that as at July 2013, the UDC had indicated that in excess of $1.1 million was due to landowners. This figure however related to compensation outstanding for 46 roads built during the period 2007 to 2013. The Auditor general said the UDC could not provide information on whether compensation was paid or outstanding for the 179 roads constructed prior to 2007.
“This places the UDC in a similar position to the RDC, in that the roads built would have to be surveyed to determine the extent of its liability to the landowners,” the Auditor General said. He warned that “the UDC had no authority to acquire the land or to compensate the landowners except under the terms outlined in the Land Acquisition Act.
The Auditor General also zeroed in on the length of time it was taking the ministry to compensate landowners.
He noted that over ten years had passed since the ministry compulsorily acquired 4.58 hectares of land at Cottage, St George in March 2003 and yet the Ministry had not commenced negotiations with the landowner.
In another case outstanding since July 2010, the ministry compulsorily acquired 125 hectares of land in St Philip and made an offer which was rejected by the land owner who subsequently took the matter before the court.
A settlement is also due 116,168 and 3,033 square metres of land at Six Men’s, St Peter, since December 1997 with the Ministry reporting that it owed compensation on 112 locations as at March 31, 2013, amounting to $157 million as its contingent liability.
(Please also see Pages 12&13 in our digital ePaper – http://epaper.barbadostoday.bb)