TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) would like to thank the government and the Oversight Committee Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) for listening to the concerns raised on the $600,000 paid to each parliamentarian. This is in relation to the Oversight Committee’s response to Transparency Solomon Islands published article on the selective manner in which the ESP was disbursed to the Members of Parliament (MP).
It took the Executive Government a week before responding to Transparency Solomon Islands article and only to allege that it is misleading the public about the ESP package channeled through Members of Parliament. This kind of response has become quite normal for an Executive Government when it does not have any justifiable rationale for some of the actions it takes with regard to issues raised by TSI and others.
In response to the ESP package, Transparency Solomon Islands wishes to remind the public and in particular the Oversight Committee media person of the events that prompted Transparency Solomon Islands to publicly share the information revealed at the Public Accounts Committee on ESP payments to MPs. Transparency Solomon Islands does so in the name of transparency, accountability, and fairness to all when it comes to the Covid 19 SOE responses funding injections.
At the Public Accounts Committee hearing two weeks ago, complaints were raised by members of the parliamentary opposition group directly to Secretary to Prime Minister (SPM) Dr. Jimmy Rodgers on the distribution of ESP $600,000 paid out to Members of Parliament (MPs). These questions relate to the selective disbursement of $600,000 paid out to 29 MPs of the ruling Executive Government Coalition. None of these 29 MPs include Members of Parliament who are in the Opposition and Independent Group. At that hearing it was pointed out that the $600,000.00 should be for all MPs regardless of which side of the house they belong to, since the fund is targeting ESP-intended activities at the constituency level, for all 50 constituencies.
In that meeting it was also revealed that the Minister of Finance when questioned on this by the Opposition informed that a form be signed with the Ministry of Finance and one with the Secretary to Prime Minister for access to the $600,000. These are facts shared publicly that cannot be swept under the carpet by oversight committee.
Transparency Solomon Islands reminds the Executive Government that the opposition and the independent MPs are elected leaders by their people in their constituency to be their voice, representative, and to inform the highest decision making body of the country of the issues affecting their constituencies. The selective manner by the oversight committee to firstly pay MPs within the ruling Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) is the issue and shows poor leadership. It is therefore not right in response to COVID 19 SOE funding response that the Opposition and Independent should be treated any differently. Unless of course DCGA is using COVID 19 funding injections for other agendas than for COVID 19 proper. This is becoming the normal practice under the current State of Public Emergency and just saying misleading is no longer good enough for actions that are selective.
Thus, Transparency Solomon Islands will continue to advocate for fairness, transparency and accountability in every decision made by the ESP oversight committee and the DCGA government. The revelation in the newspaper shows that only 29 MPs (All from the coalition government) received the ESP. This has raised more questions and concerns from constituents whose MPs were not recipients and in the general public. Had the media and Opposition MPs did not raise this issue at PAC to verify that there is selective disbursement of funds, no one would have been the wiser.
It is not a coincident that after the publication of TSI’s article and outcry by public in social media, and public about the unfair distribution of the ESP to MPs, payments are now in the process to some of these MPs and others are yet to receive the $600,000. Our question remains with regard to what other motives are there with regard to this selective disbursement. It seems that the ESP oversight committee only acts fairly when someone speak out or attempt to share information then.
Transparency Solomon Islands believed that if the committee inform all 50 MPs about the process and how to apply for the fund at the first place the other MPs would have not raise any complaints. But since the MPs from the opposition group were curious after learning that 29 MPs within the government has received $600,000 each, it shows that the committee failed miserably to inform all.
Transparency Solomon Islands wants to remind the oversight committee and the DCGA government to learn from the impressive role played by the police media and try to revive the government communication unit to do the same. The latter release of payments to other remaining MPs should have been published in a press release to avoid public and MPs who are not aware raising their concerns on the issue.
Lastly Transparency Solomon Islands thank the DCGA government for the efforts to release all payments to those remaining MPs. This shows that the current regime is still committed to deliver to the people and serve them indiscriminately despite earlier misunderstanding that raises frustrations on some MPs. Transparency Solomon Islands look forward to work closely with the government to ensure transparency, accountability and integrity is always upheld to ensure good governance is achieve in our beloved nation-Solomon Islands.