BY JARED KOLI
IN an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela yesterday announced a number of cost-cutting reform measures his office has already undergone.
Speaking to local journalists at his first official press conference, Prime Minister Houenipwela has issued instruction which saw 60 Political Appointees (PAs) reduced to 30, discontinuing all vehicle lease agreements and cut back on post-paid mobile phones.
As this could be seen as a clean-up of the mess left by the previous house, the Prime Minister said this is part of his Government’s priorities in managing the fiscal situation.
“As part of my Government’s priorities in managing the fiscal situation, I have initiated taking the lead on administrative cost-cutting measures,” he told reporters.
Houenipwela said the reform has resulted in the number of PAs reduced from 60 to just above 30 staff. The reform also includes a reduction in Salary Levels and benefits.
He said the appointments are subject for review, adding that this action is expected to result in savings.
This “reorganisation of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)” is more specifically in the PM’s Political Office which includes Policy Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation Unit (PIMEU), PM’s Private Office, Caucus and Cabinet Sub-Committees.
The Prime Minister said the use and hiring of motor vehicles is unregulated and mismanaged, this has led to gross abuse of motor vehicles and consequently the Government paying millions of dollars in motor vehicles hiring.
“All previous lease agreements have been discontinued from December 2017, the reforms have resulted in a new Policy been drawn up which has established rules and guidelines for; (1) Approval process for Hiring, allocation and use of motor vehicles, (2) Vehicles will be only assigned to entitled staff and (3)Vehicles assign to Offices must be garaged at PMO,” he said.
Houenipwela said these new rules and guidelines will be effective as from February 2018 which is expected to result in significant savings.
The Prime Minister yesterday revealed that uncontrolled issue and use of post-paid mobile phones led to gross abuse and resulted in overrun of the PMO Telephone bill of over $2Million per annum.
“About 80 percent of usage is mobile internet data. We have discovered that PMO had been paying bills respect of 138 mobile phones, more than 30 of which were unknown users,” he revealed.
Houenipwela said the Government has been paying phones bills for millions of dollars in the past years.
“I have issued instructions to cut back on mobile telephones: which saw the number reduced from 138 to 60, currently.
“I have introduced a new policy (which there was none) with rules and guidelines on eligibility for issue of post-paid mobile phone, eligibility and ceiling for data usage and other strict monitoring mechanisms for abuse,” the Prime Minister said.
He said it is expected these measures will also result in significant savings for the government.