Nauru government slammed for reckless spending
The Nauru government is finding itself under more fire in a newsletter detailing which it says is unaccountable spending of public funds.
A newsletter now circulating in Nauru and around the region claims the president Baron Waqa is bribing the people and spending public money without accountability.
The Nauru Beacon has laid out a series of accusations, including that government MPs are being given hundreds of thousands of dollars to use how they want.
This money is being directed towards a housing scheme but the MPs decide who gets the money.
The Beacon says there is no accountability in how this money is spent.
It also talks about the government flying hundreds of people overseas on junkets to foster their support ahead of the election due by mid-year.
An MP suspended for the past two years, Matthew Batsiua, told Don Wiseman he doesn't know who is behind the newsletter, but he thinks they want to highlight the excesses of the government.
MATTHEW BATSIUA: And in particular of concern is that they're trying to highlight the amount of money that they're giving themselves in order to provide things in their districts so people can favour them. In other words it seems like they're using public funds to fund projects within their districts and in return have people in those districts give them votes so in a sense it amounts to some sort of actions of bribery when you look at it that way but the amount is staggering, I mean just reading the newsletter, they're talking about each MP in the Waqa government getting up to a million dollars to spend at whim. There seems to be no system of accountability and the Nauru Beacon is asserting that the MPs basically spend this money as they see fit.
DON WISEMAN: Do you think it constitutes a wage or is this some sort of ancillary payment?
MB: I don't think it constitutes wages but if you have a system that lacks accountability or any proper accounting process then that fund can be misused and it certainly can be misused to supplement private income. That's what I'm not sure if that is what's happening but certainly there seems to be a huge concern that there is a lack of accountability of public funds being used by MPs in the Waqa government on projects or expenditure that they want to focus on. For example there is this housing scheme that each MP in the Waqa government gets allocated. My figures have it at around about $750,000 dollars each, The Beacon is saying it's about a million but in any case it's huge funds that are basically at the personal discretion of the member of parliament controlling the fund.
DW: So they have this money, and there's a housing development, so they'll decide ...what?
MB: I believe it's got to do with housing repairs and so basically it's at the discretion of the member of parliament and he gets to pick and choose which houses to renovate or to refurbish, which families to help and which families not to help.
DW: What's the typical amount of money going to a householder?
MB: I'm not sure, I mean I've heard one house being renovated up to about $70,000 whereas some houses probably not in favour with that particular MP only gets $2000 so there's a huge discrepancy which also illustrates that there is no system. There is no process in place to identify what is priority, what is not because there is this huge discrepancy and it all boils down to the member of parliament in control of that fund to decide.
DW: In your view these amount to bribes ahead of the election which is due probably in July this year. In addition to this and this is something the Beacon talks about and I know you've talked about it in the past as well is the charter flights that the national airline has been running, it's run countless numbers of these taking hundreds of people from the island on joyrides effectively.
MB: Yes, I mean sadly you'd think that the Nauru government nowadays would learn the lesson of Nauru governments in the past where they ran the airline into the ground by funding these unaffordable junkets. And we have the government now under president Waqa organising supposedly inaugural flights. In my book an inaugural flight is a single flight to celebrate the opening of a new destination. They've had six or seven inaugural flights to one destination and they pack these inaugural flights with handpicked people that they are trying to induce support from and they put them up in hotels, they pay for the accommodation, they give them spending money and this all comes from the public purse. To me this is a classic example of government trying to bribe voters by using public funds.
DW: In the constituency of Meneng where there has been some significant opposition to the Waqa-Adeang government there's significant pressure continuing to be placed on the ordinary people there ahead of the election.
MB: Yeah I mean in the district of Meneng a lot of people are facing charges from the protest. Two of their members of parliament have been suspended for the past two years. That district is certainly under scrutiny by this government. And unfairly they've had senior citizens from that district who've had their pensions removed because they also stood with the protesters and so there seems to be a lot of focus on that district to unsettle the two members of parliament who are facing charges along with myself which to me is just unfair.
Suspended Nauru MP, Matthew Batsiua.
Our attempts seeking a response to the allegations from the Nauru government or its spokespeople have been ignored.
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