Home News TSI says Auditor General’s fundings are shocking but not new, wants those...

TSI says Auditor General’s fundings are shocking but not new, wants those implicated fired

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Transparency Solomon Islands on the release of the audit of Covid-19 finding calls for the independence of the Auditor General’s Office. This will ensure the office does its work independently and in real time accounting for how the Executive Government and public institutions expended and accounted for taxpayers money through the Speaker of Parliament to the parliament.

Transparency Solomon Islands commends the Auditor General for auditing the Covid-19 response funding. The findings are shocking but not surprising at all.  What is most surprising and shocking to the public and to Transparency Solomon Islands is the fact that the two most important public Institutions that the country depends on in times of any disaster, be it natural, health and medical etc. are the two that have abused and misused the public funds provided by taxpayers of Solomon Islands and the taxpayers of countries that contributed to these funds.  What a big shame Ministry of Health and Medical Services and National Disaster Management Office.  You were both in the front pages of our media doing good for the country during this medical crisis but behind the scenes, you were really rotten, abusing and misusing the millions that could have gone to prepare the country for when the virus eventually got to the country, improving much needed health services and infrastructures. It is a shame to name a few examples that whilst patients in the hospital needing medical tests that could not be done in the hospital because they had no resources, you operated a ghost Standing Imprest, paying for quarantine facilities under murky arrangements, paying out huge amounts disproportional to work done. Relatives of patients had to pay private facility, to get the tests required by the doctors, nurses. You came down on nurses demanding allowance, probably because they have knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes at the upper management level. These findings are whilst shocking are, unacceptable and those responsible must be punished and charged for corruption.  The public knew with the millions announced that something is amiss, but they could not do anything for they had no concrete evidence and only the reports of a few from within that could not afford to lose their employment.

Transparency Solomon Islands (March 2020) whilst not wishing to slow down the responses to the Covid-19 crisis called on the Executive Government and public to be alerted to the risks of undue influence and lobbying by special interest groups who may push to be the first in line for public bailouts, or self- dealing government officials who make decisions to benefit themselves and their friends. Transparency Solomon Islands called for tough safeguards and a robust monitoring and evaluation framework for the implementation of the Covid-19 responses.  These were in the interest of protecting these responses/funding against self-interest parties taking advantages of the State of Emergency funding and legislation for their own benefit. These fell on deaf ears. The Covid-19 Coordinating Committee was adamant that all is well and under control because they are in control.  Obviously they were not and corrupt officials have denied the people of this country the resources that could have improved their health infrastructures, provision their clinics or medical facilities with basic medical supplies etc.

Transparency Solomon Islands early 2020 reminded too that at times like the Covid-19 crisis emergency powers are needed but that these should have a clear deadline and limited scope.  It was and still is our view that in times like the Covid-19 crisis it is essential always to protect the rule of law, parliamentary oversight, independent judicial control and effective domestic remedies, even during emergency.  Obviously these were ignored and an Imprest Account as per Auditor General’s shocking finding having no real person -ghost account of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.  The question Transparency Solomon Islands wishes to raise here is “Is the practice of having no one being responsible for Imprest Accounts, Standing imprests Accounts etc. catered for in the Financial Instruction or the Public Financial Management Act (2013)?”.  If it does that section should be repealed immediately.

More importantly based on the findings of the Auditor General as a starting point, Transparency Solomon Islands is calling for an independent  Commission of Inquiry into how Solomon Islands and in particular the Executive Government and public sector institutions have  responded to this medical crisis and have managed the funds poured into the country.  The country needs the findings, lesson learned, to ensure these findings are not repeated.

With regard to the three public institutions named, Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to explain these findings to the people of Solomon Islands, more especially for those who lost their loved ones to Covid-19.  More importantly to ensure those implicated are charged for the people of this country need justice. For the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, TSI calls for his suspension whilst investigation is carried out on the findings of the Auditor General in his Ministry.

For the NDMO Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, to terminate/suspend the Director and those officials who sit at the top level of the NDMO.  Much of the report and allegations received by Transparency Solomon Islands is levelled at NDMO.  The real evidence is before you now Prime Minister, in the Auditor General’s report. An urgent investigation is needed to charge responsible officers.  Bringing officials responsible for the abuse of these funds before the courts will act as a deterrent into the future.  More importantly a thorough cleanup of that office is urgent.

At the end of the day regardless of the outcome of the findings of any investigation the responsibility for these gross abuses of public funds rests entirely with the Permanent Secretaries as the accounting officers of the responsible ministries, the Director of NMDO, and the Covid-19 Coordination Committee Chair Secretary to Prime Minister, Dr. Jimmy Rogers.

Lastly but not the least Transparency Solomon Islands calls for the Auditing of the Economic Stimulus Package, another response funding to the Covid-19 SOE.  It is the opinion of Transparency Solomon Islands based on observation that the Covid-19 restrictions under the Emergency Powers Regulation were more devasting to people, business and community than the Covid-19 transmission itself.  With little from responsible institution, people manage to look after themselves with little or no assistant at all from responsible government institutions other than the vaccination, (thank you nurses). Many lost their livelihoods, school children their education etc.  Solomon Islands needs to know the impact of this scheme on people’s livelihood. Is it clean from corrupt practice, is it properly accounted for and did  it produced the desired outcome.  An audit of this scheme will give us the data on how well it has been managed.

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