Government’s 2018 Budget austerity measures puts SINU at huge risk
BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
SOLOMON Islands National University (SINU) requests the national government to seriously consider their $40million submission for contractual payments or prepare to face major problems.
It is understood SINU faces the risk of being landed in court if it does not pay its contractors in time.
According to SINU’s Pro Vice Chancellor during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing into the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill at Parliament last week with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) on their Supplementary Budget submission, the ongoing contractual costs for their two projects (The School of Education and Humanity Building Complex project and the school of Natural Resources and Applied Sciences, Research and Teaching Building) for 2018 total to $63M.
And currently, SINU has outstanding payments of $23M with the School of Education and Humanities Building Complex project.
One consequence which is also one of SINU’s big concerns if the national government does not seriously consider SINU’s Supplementary Budget Submission will be the legal implication on SINU for failing to meet its contractual obligation with contractors.
“So far the contractors have been tolerating the delays in payments but SINU Management has been told recently during the site visit to the School of Education and Humanities Building Complex project that their patience is running out. SINU need’s to meet its obligation in the contract,” said SINU’s Pro Vice Chancellor.
“Other consequences will be the problem of not enough classrooms and Office space that continues to exist seeing the enrolment numbers being expected to increase in 2019. Currently, hostels being used as Offices and classrooms create shortage of bed spaces.
“The next is SINU will not be able to achieve the results expected from the 2016-20 Strategic Plans and this is not good for the reputation of the university and the National Government as the only National University in the country.
“Finally there will be further delay on other important development projects that have been already planned and are now deferred due to lack of funding.”
From report, the School of Education and Humanities Building Complex project and the School of Natural Resources and Applied Sciences, Research and Teaching Building are two ongoing projects that SINU started in 2016 as part of its Strategic Plan.
The School of Natural Resources and Applied Sciences, Research and Teaching Building Project is expected to finish this year being at its finishing stage while the School of Education and Humanities Building Complex is expected to finish in the first half of 2019.
Submission for the $40M under the Supplementary Budget is to meet the ongoing contractual payments for these two major projects in particular the School of Education and Humanities Building Complex project.
The enrolment for SINU has increased by 65 percent since 2015 and to complete these two major projects within the expected time frame is very crucial as this is also to address the big problem of classroom space currently faced by these two schools.
SINU currently implements major infrastructure projects as part of the SINU Transitional Development programme which are now carried forward and implemented under the SINU Strategic Plan 2016-20 to support SINU implementing the Transitional Development Programme.
The government has made commitment to allocate funds for the development budget to meet the cost for these development projects.
In 2013 SINU was allocated $75M for the development budget and this amount was reduced to about $50M per year after 2013. Based on the commitment and understanding from the national government, SINU committed to implement some of the key infrastructure projects to meet the goals and developments of its Strategic Plan 2016-2020.
Reduction of the development grant budget raised the problem for SINU in not being able to meet its contractual obligations under these two projects.