Solomons Transparency outraged at million dollar payout for MPs
Solomon Islands MP's being paid controversial US $53,000 terminal grant.
Transparency Solomon Islands is calling on the country's caretaker government to revoke a 300 percent increase to MP's end of term payouts.
Ahead of next month's elections, the 50 MPs will be given payouts of more than 53,000 US dollars each based on a decision by the Parliament Entitlements Commission.
By comparison MPs just before the last election four years ago received just over 13,000 US dollars for their end of term payout.
The payout will cost the heavily aid dependent country about 2.7 million dollars for money that the MPs do not have to account for.
The chief executive of Transparency Solomon Islands, Daniel Fenua, told Koroi Hawkins the payments cannot be justified.
DANIEL FENUA: This increase is basically, it's a 300 percent increase, so we thought that on our position of TSI, this is, this increase is very excessive and we believe that the decision made by PEC ( Parliament Entitlements Commission) didn't take into consideration the economic factors and you know the economic situation of the country. We call on the PEC and the government as well, to reconsider the decision made and revoke the decision made by PEC.
KOROI HAWKINS: And I understand there was a call for a revision to that increase to 400,000 (about 53,000 USD) and it was supposed to be reduced to 200, 000 (about 26,500 USD) What happened to that decision by the PEC, which I understand was also made?
DF: The amendment that aims to reduce the amount from 400,000 to 200,000 was never gazetted. So the second decision to decrease the amount was, was not legal because it was never gazetted as it was required to by the law.
KH: And why do parliamentarians in Solomon Islands have terminal grants anyway? I mean there's 50 of them, 50 MPs and they are all going to get 400,000 dollars, which is a lot of money and why do they get a thank you payment at the end of their term?
DF: This is the whole argument that we have at the moment. We are saying, you know, the terminal grant we believe supposedly is to integrate MPs into the communities, because of their term in parliament. But you know, just look at the 400,000 is too much. From our position at transparency, we thought that this is wrong and even we dont think that the MPs should get the terminal grant.
KH: I spoke with the Attorney General, Billy Titiulu, about this matter last week. And he seemed to be of the view that legally, the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission has no right, it has not constitutional right, to reduce any amount it increases. If what the Attorney General is saying is true, then that would, that would sort of say that this 400,000 dollar payment is going to remain that way forever. Is the TSI aware of any way where this can be rectified for future?
DF: Yeah, I mean there are... First of all there are two issues involved. One is when we look at the commission that determines the increase, it actually comprises of two parliamentarians that, you know there is definitely a conflict of interest issue in there. Where the very people that would receive, become recipient of the terminal fund are the very people who decides, who make the decision to increase. There is an avenue, well a precedent has set in terms of, like last time, where, you know one of the, one of the legal firms actually challenged the entitlement that should go, that should go, you know, out to, you know to the spouses of the 50 members of parliament. And you know the courts rule on behalf of the, of that legal firm because, because it is unreasonable. And I think that the same avenue should, could, could apply also to, to this situation. Where any, any organisation even, like Transparency Solomon Islands would act, would challenge and would definitely take that, as a, like in terms of a judicial review, reviewing the decision made on that increase.
KH: Do you think this money is going to go towards election campaigns?
DF: I mean this is the whole motive, we believe, behind why, you know why outgoing MPs are struggling to get a 400,000 increase. Because we don't have a monitoring system to say whether, whether the money can be used for integrating, ah integrating MPs into the communities. But definitely, most of the MPs you know if they get this money, they will definitely use it for campaign.
KH: And what, what effect do you think that will have on the campaigns?
DF: Well the chances are, you know, when you have got that 400,000 in your hands, you can manipulate, you can buy voters, you can get more voters. And they have more chances than a poor person, a poor candidate you know who really wanted to, to campaign on a very clean platform. But now with this money available to, to outgoing 50 MPs. They have a chance to turn people and to lure them, so that they can vote for them.
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