China demands high level of accountability

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THE release of China’s funding contribution to the politicians-controlled Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) grants this year has hit a snag, insiders have revealed.

China reportedly refused to sign off on the joint escrow account at the Bank South Pacific (BSP) unless its demand for a higher level of accountability is met, the insiders told Island Sun on the weekend.

Because of Beijing’s hard line, Chinese government representatives in Honiara last week reportedly rejected a submission prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) – the conduit for making RCDF grants payments – describing it as below standard and hard to reconcile.

Unlike Taipei which easily accepted loose arrangements, China is demanding a higher level of accountability and transparency before it signs off for the release of some SBD90 million which is sitting in the account,” they said.

The submission was returned to MRD, the insiders said.

Beijing’s RCDF grants contribution were to have been disbursed last week, but the position by China has now delayed the payment. Its release of the payment now depends on how fast the MRD has attended to China’s concerns.

“The demand for higher standard of accountability by China is really good. This is what we need as this is public money we are dealing with. There must be a standard,” one insider told Island Sun.

Following the switch in diplomatic relations to China last September, Beijing agreed to pay Taiwan’s outstanding portion of the RCDF grants for this year. Beijing has also agreed to continue paying the portion of the RCDF grants that Taiwan contributed each year for the next three years.

According to records, Taiwan paid 20 per cent of the RCDF grants each year. This means that in an annual budget of $360 million, Taiwan contributed about $72 million while Solomon Islands taxpayers forked out the balance of $288 million a year.

The joint funding of the RCDF grants will continue until 2022.