Press Statement – 27th July, 2015

PORERA SML CHILDREN INVESTMENT FUND LIMITED

The Porgera SML landowner Students and Parents called a meeting in Port Moresby this weekend to discuss the Barrick’s consistent refusal to transfer monies belonging to the Porgera SML Children’s Trust Fund to the Trust Fund to pay school fees. The Trustees first wrote to Barrick to release the funds in September 2014, but Barrick has given many reasons to illegally keep the funds. Those reasons include; (i) that funds were invested in term deposits, (ii) that the Auditor should audit the accounts of the Trust fund before it released the funds and most recently, (iii) that the Trustees had to give an undertaking to Barrick that they were running the Trust Fund in accordance with the Trust Deed.

The refusal will mean that again no school fees will be paid for 2015 by the Trust Fund in breach of its duty to pay school fees in accordance with the Trust Deed which established the Fund in 1992. The Trustees and parents are now concerned that Students attending education institutions throughout the country and overseas will be removed due to non-payment of fees. The Trust fund usually pays its share of school fees in the second half of each year starting in July. The parents had to take Barrick to Court last year for the same reason.

Barrick is not a contributor to the fund but was assigned one of the six Trustee positions of the Trust Fund in the hope that it will contribute funds towards the education of Porgera landowner children. It has not contributed any money but remained on the board of Trustees.

The Trust fund was mismanaged in the period 2005 to 2013 by the Trustees at that time including a Barrick or PJV Trustee who was a signatory to all Cheques written over this time. No Financial statements were produced and capital funds were illegally withdrawn over this time. The former Trustees further failed to call annual general meetings as required by the Trust Deed for the same years.

Parents took the matter to court in 2013 resulting in the National Court ordering for the 24 Agents of the Porgera Special Mining lease landowners to appoint their Trustees last year and for those Trustees to pay 2014 school fees forthwith. This Court also directed for an annual general meeting (AGM), which prompted the Trustees to appoint an Auditor to audit the financial affairs of the Trust Fund for the years 2005 to 2013, so that the Financial Statements which is a regular and significant business of the AGM, were available for presentation to the AGM.

The Auditor however has not been able to produce the Financial Statements because they are having difficulty in obtaining financial information including payment vouchers, bank statements, cheque books and other relevant information for the relevant years from the former Trustees including the PJV (Barrick) Trustee. The list of information required has been provided to Barrick by the Auditor but this has not been provided, resulting in the delay in holding the annual general meeting.

The students and parents do not understand why Barrick is continuing to withhold royalty funds belonging to the Trust Fund, since there is no provision in the Trust Deed that allows Barrick to keep royalty entitlements of the Trust Fund in its Bank accounts. The Trust Deed in fact demands that the Trustees at all times must be in the possession of all monies and investments of the Trust Fund. To allow Barrick to keep the funds would be in breach of their duties as Trustees.

The parents have already directed The Trustees to initiate legal proceedings against Barrick once again to order Barrick to release all funds belonging to the Trust Fund so that school fees can be paid and further that the Trustees can run the Trust fund without interference by Barrick, when Barrick is not a financial contributor. The parents also confirmed that Barrick must also be removed as a Trustee of the Fund.

The parents call on the State authorities to investigate Barrick in relation to its conduct against the children of the Porgera landowners for a long time now, which has affected their education in many ways.

 

By Porgera Special Mining Lease (SML) Students & Parents.

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