$71m to be kept in separate account: Kuma

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THE $71 million funding assistance provided by Australia Government will be kept in a separate account, says Minister of Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma.

The budget support will see $44 million go toward the Health sector covid-19 response and $27 million for the Government’s Economic Stimulus Covid-19 Response Plan.

Media raised the question in the press conference following Australia’s support towards the health sector in the past were misused by public officers through inflated contracts.

One good example was the $10 million ($1.5 million AUD) scandal in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in 2013 where eight public servants were charged for fraud.

The $10 million funding came under the Health Sector Support Programme funded by AusAID.

The Solomon Star has alleged that the irregularities were detected in transactions relating to the funding during routine risk assessment activities undertaken by the country’s Ministry of Finance.

It is alleged that contractors grossly inflated freight service charges and shipping charters for the project.

The contractors were allegedly from middle-man companies and charged around three to four times the normal price.

Minister Kuma said the ministry is setting up a separate bank account to keep COVID-19 related funding including the Australia funding.

Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dickson Mua said the $44 million will support the isolation and quarantine infrastructure requirements, logistics, medical equipment, personal protection equipment, laboratory equipment including COVID testing kits, water and sanitation projects, surge personal or technical assistance in Honiara and throughout the provinces.

Mua said the ministry want to improve the capacity of the provincial hospitals and church hospital to prepare for the COVID-19.