AS the review of the Honiara City Council (HCC) Act 1999 is now underway, Councillor for Vura Ward, Reginald Ngati has called for an amendment in the entitlements of Ward Councillors’.
Cr Ngati said the amendment of the Councillors’ entitlements is important because Honiara city is now expanding, so as the increase of demands for services by residents in the city.
He stated that “just like the national members of parliament, we as ward Councillors too are experiencing the pressure of rising demands by residents’ of the city. We have received requests from voters and ward residents on a daily basis – a normal culture in the local politics.”
Having said that, Cr Ngati said the current entitlements for Councillors is really unfair in their leadership.
For instance, under the current HCC Act, the entitlements of Councillors together with the deputy mayor are only the fortnight allowances, no more no less.
“Unless if there are some other entitlements that was hidden from us that I did not know about. This excludes the City Mayor, as his entitlements are stipulated for under the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC).
“For those of us ordinary Councillors or non-executive Councillors, our fortnightly allowance is just $1,325 tax-free. Those that holds Chairmanship roles gets more than $1,500, while Deputy Mayor gets $1,900 plus.
“That is the current allowance we are entitled to. We are lucky that the allowances are not taxed,” the Vura Ward Councillor said.
“There is no housing entitlements, no education entitlement, no health allowance, no transportation or ward touring entitlements,” Cr Ngati added.
Under the leadership of Wilson Mamae, Mr Ngati was Chairman for what was referred to as the Councillors Entitlements Committee (CEC) – an ad hoc committee that was formed to look into the entitlements of Councillors.
“When I was with CEC, we have come up with figures and possible entitlements in a report and forwarded it to the Minister for Home Affairs. I wish to see the ministry refer to the report we submitted when reviewing the Act.
“I strongly call on the ministry to seriously consider the review of the Councillors’ entitlements,” Cr Ngati said.
He went on to state that the review of the entitlements is important, because a lot of complaints have been received by members of the public, accusing certain Councillors of owning expensive vehicles, houses, and huge properties when their allowances is very petty.
“However, whether they purchased the items before or during the time they are elected is not the issue here. The issue here is that when a Councillor has no other entitlement and is owning properties and making wealth, that is the problem.
“The point here is that the entitlements does not qualify a councillor to have expensive properties, or look outstanding in this leadership role. You only have your allowance that is paid fortnightly. And also at the end of each Councillor’s term, there is no grands paid – it will just be a return home with no allowances given,” Ngati stated.
Having said that, he is concerned that the fear of Councillors getting off track is either created by those that are creating or revising the Act as there are no provisions that gives Councillors the opportunity and privilege so that when they work and serve their people, they at least have something to count on.
“Therefore, considering the amendement of Councillors’ entitlements in the revised HCC Act is a must. It must be done,” the Vura Ward Councillor strongly stated.