DEAR EDITOR, Solomon Islands ousted Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, revealed this week during a Motion of No Confidence moved against him in Parliament that the 50 Members of Parliament (MPs) together received more than half a billion dollars a year.
Mr Sogavare said that huge amount of money if used wisely should have benefitted the entire nation.
He explained that the $350million received by the 50 MPs each year under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) plus the shipping grant and other funding pushed the amount to more than half a billion.
Mr Sogavare went on to say that the MPs had set a bad precedence by purchasing assets with money funded under certain projects and cited cases were shipping grants had been used to buy land and houses, vehicles and private machines for logging
In a report tabled recently by Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) which evaluated the impact of CDF funds in the constituencies for previous years, the investigative survey showed very poor results on the use of CDF allocated money.
The CDF funds are given annually to the Solomon Islands Government by Taiwan with ‘no strings attached’ and a failure in the necessity of auditing has seemingly led to the alleged misuse of CDF money cited by Mr Sogavare.
It might be argued that a similar lack of proper accountability over the allocation of shipping grants to MPs has also contributed to the alleged misuse of such grants.
It is my personal view that the ROC Government should put its money into direct aid in creating opportunities throughout the Solomon Islands by establishing and supporting local businesses that would provide employment and incomes for the rural communities.
By contrast the Chinese are doing just that in increasing the PRC’s reach across the smaller Pacific Island states and, while the Solomon Islands Government has most recently demonstrated its support for Taiwan, the reported and constant allegations of the misuse of the money given to MPs by the ROC government should ring alarm bells in Taipei.
It might be that the message has begun to sink in because the proposal to create a manufacturing outlet in Honiara next year that will provide jobs and generate income I take to be a pragmatic move and one with tangible outcomes for the benefit of better relations with Taiwan, as perhaps will be perceived by the communities in the Solomon Islands that are yet to see what has come from the CDF money over many years.
If the Solomon Islands Government does eventually succeed in creating the long talked of free economic zones then Taiwan might add to its international stature by investing money and technology into such zones, as is successfully being done by Taiwan in Thailand and in India.
I have personal knowledge, too, how Taiwan is aiding the Swaziland Government in better ways than so far evident with cash handouts to MPs in the Solomon Islands.
The alleged misuse of the CDF money and the shipping grants prima facie smacks of corruption and the statement by Derek Futaiasi this week who told the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Vienna the Solomon Islands Government will create a ICAC and the commission would have authority and jurisdiction to investigate and refer for prosecution all corruption cases is welcome news.
Mr Futaiasi said the UN was being requested to share costs with the government for some of the activities in the Solomon’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy.