Skepticism in budget process with terminal grant still a missing item in budget

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Inside the Solomon Islands National Parliament
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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

THE Auki/Langalanga Member of Parliament Mathew Wale says it seems as if they are making fools of themselves especially with the tedious process of going through the country’s budget.

Last week during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Hearing, Wale was once again heard to reprimand the Ministry of Finance and Treasury when they appear before the Special Select Committee.

He said there is nothing new brought forward in the supplementary and he is beginning to be weary of this process.

“It seems as if we are lying to ourselves with the process. This is a recurring thing.”

In April this year when debating the Appropriation Bill 2018 on the floor of parliament, Wale was seen and heard to reprimand government of fiscal mismanagement and poor leadership.

Last week he was still skeptical and raised a number of issues on the items brought forward to be included in the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation bill 2018.

He also brought light to the terminal grant of MPs that are not included in the 2018 Supplementary bill 2018 nor in the 2018 Appropriation budget.

“There is a big expenditure that is left out of this supplementary. It is the terminal grant for the members that will dissolve at the end of the year.

“That is one huge bill that is about to hit treasury. And it is not in here. But by law you will have to foot it. I do not know how that was missed in the main budget in the beginning and once again in this supplementary.

“So legally we are to expect more expenditures to come later. Where will we get the money?”

In responding, MOFT says the budget process is improving and that the process have elements inside that ensures accountability.

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Director of the Budget Unit said that information to be included in any of the country’s budget must be accurate.

He said they just cannot include any item that they are unsure off in the supplementary budget.

“I think the budget process is better than before,” he said.

Meanwhile, $20m terminal grant for MPs was not included in the 2018 supplementary bill 2018, which Wale said he is fearful that government will cut other important areas to pay for unbudgeted items like the terminal grant.

Terminal grant however must be paid before parliament dissolves as it is an act of parliament, Wale said.

Though terminal grants are from an act of parliament, Wale said it must be included and reflected in the budget.

The $20m terminal grant for MPs has raised eyebrows from anticorruption NGO, Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI).

TSI says this $20m terminal grant MUST be taxed.

Each MP will receive $400,000 each when their term ends in mid-December this year.

It is not sure whether this tax exemption will also extend to ‘terminal grants’ or only for the MPs’ salary alone.

This will be the first parliament to receive terminal grant under the tax free incentive.

PAC concludes its hearing into the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Budget 2018 Thursday last week.

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