Gov’t called on to justify $20M Terminal Grant against low Development Budget
THE Solomon Islands Social Accountability Coalition (SISAC) is calling on the Government to rationalize its commitment of the Terminal Grant to MPs at the end of parliament term that will be charged against tax income.
SISAC members feel that such a huge payout is an excessive benefit for Members of Parliament who are already enjoying luxurious benefits and tax free salaries despite continued financial struggles in the public sector and a National Budget that is heavily dependent on donor money.
In the 2018 Development Budget only $9 million was allocated for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, $18 million for the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development while the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family affairs suffered the biggest cut with a budget of just $500,000.
The $20 million terminal grants is an unreasonable allocation and undermines all the development priorities and the commitment of the government towards its citizens.
Joe Oge, SISAC member and Chief Commissioner of the Solomon Islands Scout Association, says youth developments have been totally ignored.
“While 400,000 young people in Solomon Islands are allocated only $500,000 as a development budget, our MPs are getting $400,000 each,” says Mr Oge.
“SISAC understands that the Terminal Grant is a constitutional obligation, however our leaders and our government must put the interest of the citizens first.”
General Secretary of the Development Services Exchange (DSE), Jennifer Wate says the entitlements act needs to be revisited and the credibility of the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) must be put into question.
“We want to question the government on their stand on this issue. What are their priorities and how significant does the entitlements stand over national issues?”
Ms Wate says SISAC supports the call made by Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) who last week called for the government to tax MPs.
TSI, who is also a member of the SISAC alliance, is concerned that the Terminal Grant will forego government revenue worth millions and is simply unfair for Solomon Islanders who are struggling to make ends meet with huge PAYE tax cuts.
SISAC insists that $20 million can be better spent on pressing development needs such as improving education, health facilities, addressing unemployment of young people and essential service provision to citizens of Solomon Islands.
SISAC raised three major issues;
- Government spending tax payer’s money in an irresponsible manner and prioritising self-serving grants to MPs over development need must be rationalised by the government to its citizens.
- Having members of parliament in the PEC is a clear conflict of interest. The entitlement’s commission for MPs needs to be an independent body to make transparent and accountable decision on the entitlements of MPs. PEC is not independent from MPs and the government.
- Twenty million dollars of terminal grants to MPs in addition to all other benefits is contrary to the prevailing economic situation of the country. SISAC urges constitutional revision around the entitlement of MPs.
SISAC will put forward a written submission to the Constitutional Review Committee calling for amendments to the entitlements of MPs.
SISAC is made up of members; Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI), Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT), Development Services Exchange (DSE), Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII), Young Women’s Parliamentary Group (YWPG), Solomon Islands National Scouts Association (SINSA), Honiara Youth Council (HYC), National Youth Congress (NYC) and Oxfam in Solomon Islands (OiSI).
The aim of the coalition to promote inclusive development and enhance democratic governance and accountability among government and civil society institution in Solomon Islands.