TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands applaud the move by the Executive Government undertaking to conduct an audit of the funds spent on the renovation of facilities identified to be Covid 19 quarantine centers for repatriated and incoming travelers to Solomon Islands.
Transparency Solomon Islands in its campaign for Transparency and Accountability for the COVID 19 SOE responses called for auditing of the funds spent under the name covid-19 SOE and for these to be tabled before the Parliament scrutiny. The funding injections in response to COVID 19 ignited public debate in mainstream media including social media. Serious allegations of fraud and nepotism in the award of contract jobs were raised.
The revelation by the acting Permanent Secretary Mr. Jimmy Nuake that $13 million was spent for renovation work alone at the quarantine centers is not only alarming but needs auditing. Some of these places were not used for quarantine purposes, despite the millions spent. Some failed to meet the specifications required for Covid 19 quarantine facility requirements. The work done was very poor and does not reflect well on the contractors themselves. For the millions paid out to the contractor this is not value for money.
Some of the quarantine centers where these millions were spent are King George VI dormitories, Ex-Telekom hostel and the National Referral Hospital (NRH). It is not only an issue of value for money but one of bad planning and poor supervision on the part of those responsible and the Oversight Committee.
Transparency Solomon Islands and taxpayers of Solomon Islands demand accountability and transparency in the use of these $13 million. Exposing and holding those milking the government to account under the guise of covid-19 is a must. They need to be held responsible for their actions. The allegation that some of the people awarded these contracts did not have any qualification nor the experience to undertake these construction jobs needs to be verified. Furthermore, issues relating to why these jobs were not published in the paper and tendered out so that qualified contractors, registered businesses can apply need some answers. Why was it not advertised?
Besides these $13 million spent on quarantine facilities, now that you have started the process of auditing COVID 19 SOE TSI calls on the Executive Government to extend the audit to funds spend on catering, security and allowances, including the repatriation package given to Members of Parliament. Make public the findings as well as tabling it in Parliament. This will build confidence back in the government much needed at this time of the pandemic. Since the declaration of the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) in March this year huge funding injections by our government and those from our development partners for the purpose of covid-19 prevention must be properly accounted for.
The astounding and shocking phenomena associated with this Covid 19 pandemic SOE is the scramble for benefit from the covid-19 fund by many close to political elites through nepotism and fraud. It has become a normal practice under the SoPE not to advertise the renovation work, security and catering at the quarantine centers. Instead it is the practice of who you know comes into play with orchestrated move to siphon off huge funds through individuals or business names. Some businesses it is alleged were registered during the SOE and have benefited hugely from funds that should be building better healthcare facilities and provide medical supply to citizens of Solomon Islands. On the quarantine facilities contracts these businesses or individuals claimed to have provided services needed at quarantine centers. It is alleged they were all handpicked at the choice of certain people, who were given the responsibility to coordinate work on the quarantine sites. They need to be held responsible for their actions.
The fact that those services provided at the quarantine centers were never put on public tender is a clear indication of the high prevalence of corruption involved in already very obscure the process, allowing funds for the covid-19 purposes ending up being charity fund for few individuals and their cronies.
Transparency Solomon Islands reiterates that acting PS for the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) Mr. Nuake must keep up to his words to ensure there is an audit carried out as soon as possible. The audit report on those funds spent on covid-19 must be carried as soon as possible to expose corrupt practices and conduct to give the citizens of Solomon Islands a better chance of survival should Covid 19 enter the country. TSI agrees and fully supports the statement by Mr. Nuake that there is no need to wait for things to go back to normal before auditing the funds during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting. Auditing must start sooner no later. We cannot let those culprits to escape with the money taken in the name of contracts but failed to provide the services required to qualify the sites for quarantine purposes.
Transparency Solomon Islands will continue to support and commend good actions taken by the Executive Government with regard to COVID 19 SOE responses. In the same token it will continue to follow up on corruption related issues that the government and authorities responsible should not be sweeping under the carpet. For the good of Solomon Islands Transparency Solomon Islands will continue to advocate against corruption and promote good governance. This will help government deliver its programmes to the people of Solomon Islands but build back trust, and confidence that people need to have in their government.