Wednesday, 15 July 2009 4:57 PM

Terminal Grant for Spouses of MPs

Dear Sir,
I have been following closely debates on this site regarding the above subject and have noted with personal interest some of the comments made some of the writers.
I for one finds it quite flabbergasting to note that when one expects a clear explanation of issue from people who know better, the explanation has been rather trifling regarding the politics surrounding the processes involved in making submissions to the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) and even its composition and hence the implications of that on the decisions reached by the body.
I draw special attention to the over-emphasis of some commentators of the process of submission and the nature of the Commission as being independent and impartial.

While ideally the Commission is intended to be independent and free of political infusion, in practice it is not; not at all. As we know, the PEC is established by the Constitution and according to Section 69 A (1) of the Act, the Commission shall have a membership of five (5), two of whom are Members of Parliament, one being the Minster of Finance and the other being the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. So even from the outset to say that that MP's "do not decide on matters such as this," in this case their own Terms and Conditions, is totally misleading. Politically, I would say that the Commission is clearly driven by political interests and ambitions of MPs.

It seems that there is no prescribed process for submission of proposals to the Commission. If there is any then it has been totally ignored because currently one would assume that most, if not all submissions to the Commission are made by MPs either directly to the Commission, through Cabinet, Opposition Office or the Office of the Leader of Independent Group in Parliament, or through the Parliamentary House Committee. According to reliable parliamentary sources, most, if not all submissions that go before the House Committee had been approved by the Committee for submission to the Commission.

Indeed, not all submissions from the Committee are approved by the Commission but the irony is that all submissions have been upward spiral every year. According to the sources, over the past few years, only a few submissions have been submitted to the Commission through the Committee, and that it is unreflective of the number of amendments that have been made so far to the regulations since 1st April of 2007. Hence, one would assume that other channels of submission have been used by the MPs.
Having said thus far, while Mr. Sasako sees the terminal grants for MPs' wife's as an issue long overdue, personally I strongly believe that it is a very careless move by the Commission. I am of the view that this is being driven by the political ambitions fueled by the upcoming general elections, as the desire to win in the elections takes precedence over the welfare of the nation. Indeed, "spouses of MPs work just as hard as their husband MPs," but whether their contributions have largely been ignored" is questionable. MPs spouses are already covered in the PER in a way they best deserve.

The point I am trying to get at is that we are all Solomon Islanders working for the common good of our country and we all deserve to be treated fairly. The PER for MPs has been reviewed and MPS entitlements been increasing over the years, while little or no attention has been given to the entitlements of our MPAs or even that of Public Servants. And at this time of Global Economic Crisis, it is the Public Servants and the ordinary people in the rural areas that are bearing most of the effects of the economic downturn. I very much doubted that the MPs would because they are well covered by their entitlements.

On that note, it is alarming to see that while measures are currently undertaken within the whole of government system to counter the effects of the global economic downturn, such as the freeze of recruitment within the wider public sector, and other financial control measures, the Commission has seen it fit to approve further increases to government expenditure. And that defeats the whole purpose of putting in place financial control measures at the first place. I therefore, would argue that the Commission is doing totally the opposite; instead of approving new expenditure items, it should decrease current MP's entitlements. Globally, governments and economists are collectively trying to find out the measures of curbing the effects of the crisis, while in Solomon Islands we are adding "fuel to the fire". I think that is an act too ignorant and selfish, to say the least.

Therefore, I won't be too surprised if this issue is received with great opposition by the people of Solomon Islands. I smell a rat.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Derick and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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