6 Aug 2007

Solomon Islands Western Premier questions spending of emergency funds

7:38 pm on 6 August 2007

The premier of Solomon Islands' Western Province is questioning where money allocated for emergency relief funds has gone.

Alex Lokopio says people are still living in tents more than four months after the tsunami and earthquake hit the Western and Choiseul provinces.

He says they're now in the recovery phase where he estimates it could cost between 200 and 300 million Solomon Islands dollars, or more than 40 million U.S. dollars, to rebuild houses, and health and education facilities.

Mr Lokopio is calling for the Western and Choiseul provinces to have greater control over the spending of funds in the recovery phase, but first he wants to know what happened to the emergency relief.

"It was reported that money poured through the NDC, reached up to 12 million (Solomon Islands dollars) but, in actual fact, only more than 3 million has been spent for the victims of the Western Province and that's why I'm here in Honiara. Try to find out more about this and I want to know where the rest of the money's gone."

Mr Lokopio says he's been told that the NDC used the funds on chartering boats and vehicles, among other things.

And, he says the prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has now agreed that the provinces can set up a committee in terms of the recovery funds.