By Alfred Sasako
THE extent of public funding to JQY Enterprise Ltd – a government preferred supplier outlet – angered many members of the public. Some no doubt have their own businesses and are expectant of equal treatment, by politicians who represent them in Parliament.
While the pros and cons have merits, the public appears to have confused the issue of running a business with patriotism. These are fundamental issues and do not need a degree from the Harvard Business School to understand this.
The first irrefutable fact is this. JQY is a business. It provides a service. Everyone ends up at its New Chinatown premises because the company runs a business that provides a service customers need.
That much should be clear. It should be recognised and accepted. Patriotism, on the other hand, is another matter. In fact, many expect their political representatives to show them what patriotism is and what it demands of each citizens.
I have no real issue(s) with the amount of money JQY rakes in every year from hardworking taxpayers. Admittedly, it is a lot of money – some $239 million-plus as at the end of September this year. The source of the funding is just as controversial – the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) grants co-funded by the Solomon Islands Government and Taiwan.
JQY provides a service. It is that service that customers buy all the time. In stating this, I am reminded of what was attributed to World Boxing Legend, the late Mohammed Ali.
He said and I quote, the money we pay for services we use is the rental we pay for living on earth. In other words, nothing is free. We pay for everything we use.
Having had a close look, as I have, at Government computer print outs of what we spent so much money on using one supplier as is the case, raises a lot of questions.
For me the real issue in all this is not so much about how much money was injected into JQY or any other outfit for that matter. Rather, I am more interested to know whether the goods and services for which we pay, have been delivered.
Has JQY Enterprise Ltd delivered the goods and services for which taxpayers have paid? That to me is the $239million-plus question. And this is where the focus should be.
In fact, there are unconfirmed reports that JQY actually received two forms of payments from the government and others. One is in the form of the CDF grants, which is real hard cash, coming directly from the Ministry of Rural Development, the other from politicians and others in the form of private cheques.
The private cheque is a growing portfolio. Many of these cheques bounced. They were paid by leaders who wanted to buy coffins for the death of a Constituency voter. But because JQY does not sell coffins, the cheques were cashed with JQY only to find later the cheques bounced.
There is now a joke making the rounds that by accepting these cheques, JQY is slowly buying its own coffin. Given the size of what it has received over the years in terms of CDF grants payment from government, the company may have already weathered any potential storm(s).
What is needed now is an investigation – a forensic audit to be particular. Because given the amount of money involved and the duration of such transactions, only a forensic audit would uncover any anomalies. Anything short of a forensic audit would be a laughing stock.
Did JQY deliver the services for which payments were made? If not, where has the money gone – are but some of the leading questions that must be asked. These questions are prompted by the absence of development, economic or otherwise, in rural Solomon Islands today.