By Gary Hatigeva
THE management of Solomon Airlines has come under heavy criticism for what is described as continuous mismanagement of the State Owned Enterprise’s (SOE) operation and breach of procedures.
This was raised following the rehiring of former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Peter Sogoilo who resigned from his post with the airlines to contest the recent By-Election of the Gizo-Kolombangara constituency, which was held late last month.
But his reappointment as OFC has been questioned, and based on our research, was done outside of SOE procedures and regulations.
This issue was not at all a centre of focus, but based on our research, the rehired CFO has a strong connection with the current CEO Acting of the Airlines; they used to work together under the British American Tobacco company, where based on records, Mr Sogoilo was FC while the current Airline CEO Ag was his boss.
From the duo’s history, the rehiring of Sogoilo as CFO according to insiders, seemingly gets a lot of favours and privileges, which in some cases, has gone outside of procedures and are legally questionable.
Our research also goes to indicate that there is ambiguity with Soqoilo’s legal position with the airline and questions were raised as to what provisions were applied to make him the first SOE employee in Solomon Islands history to be allowed to contest an election and was taken back straight after.
Questions were also centred on Sogoilo’s status with the airline, as whether he had actually resigned before his participation in the election, which insiders alleged he was paid an upfront payment of two months of his rental allowance and other related benefits despite his resignation.
Island Sun understands that Soqoilo enjoyed all privileges during his campaign period and election, and he was also sighted driving the company (Airlines) hi-lux on return from Gizo during the campaign time.
Following the highlighted issues, management was questioned and in his response, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Acting (Ag) Bill Tyson said that in respect of the CFO, he had officially resigned a few months prior in accordance with Government and Company policy in order to stand for the Gizo/ Kolobangara by-election.
“Mr Soqoilo kindly agreed to assist the appointed auditors who were conducting the Company’s annual financial audit and were at a crucial stage in the audit.
“In respect of pay and allowances, Mr Soqoilo was treated in accordance with the Company Policy. The CEO agreed to Mr Soqoilo using the Company vehicle as he agreed to assist the auditors when he was in Honiara,” the CEO Acting explained through email.
However, the CEO Acting clarified that regarding the vacated position, a temporary CFO was appointed to manage this role in the Company for a few months pending the outcome of the election.
“As was done in the past for Mr Sigimanu, we offered Mr Soqoilo a new contract as the Chief Financial Officer for Solomon Airlines when he advised that he had not been successful in the election.
“Both of these gentlemen have delivered outstanding service to Solomon Airlines and they have extensive knowledge of the Company’s policies and procedures.
“The Company has made a significant investment in their training and development and not to re-engage them following the loss in a by-election would be an unsound commercial decision,” the CEO Acting added.
But, Sogoilo’s re-engagement was further put to question as the position he vacated was never re-advertised for filling since his resignation.
And this is something the regulations and laws clearly stipulate, that when an officer within the SOE resigns, all privileges were to be seized.
Research however reveals that in the case of Mr Sigimanu, following his participation in an election back then, he was never re-employed or given his old post, as he was hired on consultancy basis.
It further reveals that Mr Sigimanu also contested an election and was required to resign three months prior with all privileges terminated.
The biggest questions remain and need immediate answers, as the airlines is now seemingly setting a new standard, where staff can contest elections whilst keeping their job, but not according to laws guiding the country’s state owned enterprises.
However, questions have also been asked, as to what else are being tempered with in these institutes, especially with the local airliner that needs thorough attention?