HONIARA, 17 JULY 2023 (SBM ONLINE) — Solomon Islands leader of Opposition Matthew Wale has slammed the recent trip by the Prime Minister and his delegation to China describing it as a waste of taxpayer’s money.
The makeup of the 30-member delegation included the Prime Minister, Madam Sogavare, nine ministers, five government backbenchers, eight officials, four permanent secretaries and two close protection police officers.
Documents at hand suggest, the statement issued by PMO before departure stating that China was going to fund the trip was a ‘lie’.
Contrary to the statement, documents at hand have shown that around $1,362,370.57 (US$162,879.44) of tax payer’s monies was raised for per diem for the 30 delegates, airfares including special imprests for the Prime Minister’s Office alone.
Out of this total, $530,915. 69 (US$63,636.30) was for per diem, while another $238, 134.88 (US$28,501.51) in special imprest for PMO alone.
Documents show SIG also paid around SBD$311,000 (US$37,222.47) in airfares for the 30-member delegation from Honiara to Brisbane return whilst the Brisbane – Beijing leg was not clear.
The Opposition Office understands it is also highly likely that special imprests may have also been raised at the various ministries to also cover accommodations and food for the various cabinet ministers.
Wale lashed out saying; the PMO statement on 08 July lied about the trip being funded by China.
He said the PMO’s deceitful statement is not only irresponsible but hides the senseless spending of public funds.
“Looking at the list, it is really unnecessary for half of the delegation that travelled to China. What roles do they have in diplomatic dealings?” he questioned.
Wale said it is just a total waste of taxpayer’s money.
“There is nothing wrong with overseas trips but how do you justify spending millions on a 30-member delegation most who are only travelling as tourists. This is total madness,” Wale said.
The Opposition Leader said with the current state of economy the Government’s decision to spend money on 30 people to China was totally irresponsible.
“Just last week, teachers pay was delayed. Our hospitals need basic drugs like panadol, our roads are at its worst state, we have frequent power cuts, water problems and most importantly we are at a crucial time trying to fix the economy of this county. Yet, we are sending government tourists overseas,” he said.
“The carelessness by the Government only means, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by spending millions on tourists to China,” Wale adds.
Documents also show that the total imprest of $238,134.88 (US$28,488.08) was also paid to a non-travelling official as imprest-holder and approved by the Secretary to Prime Minister and Finance Treasury.
Wale said it is also concerning why this was approved and that Finance & Treasury would allow the imprest to be paid to someone who did not travel with the delegation.
“How is this possible? How was this even approved by finance and bypassed financial management procedures?” Hon Wale questioned.
He said these are serious matters of public interest.
The Opposition Leader said the Prime Minister’s Office must come clean on the matters raised.
“There is too much discrepancy for anyone to claim mere oversight,” he said…. PACNEWS