The Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has dismissed claims made by the Premier of Western Province, Alex Lokopio, of a possible shortfall in tsunami aid money.Premier Lokopio recently claimed that at least eleven million dollars ($11 million SBD) in emergency assistance to the Western and Choiseul Provinces never actually reached the intended beneficiaries.
Speaking to the National Express Newspaper NDMO head office stated that the claim appears to be the result of a 'break down in communication' between the Western Province Disaster Management Committee and Premier Lokopio. The NDMO head office stated that to say anything to the contrary is misleading.
"Under the country's Disaster Management Structure, it is the Western Provincial Disaster Committee (WPDC) that was responsible for the distribution of supplies on the ground and the WPDC should be the first stop for the type of information which Premier Lokopio requires. The NDMO and the National Government only sent officers to assist the WPDC on the ground, but the total responsibility on the distribution on the ground rests with the WPDC," according to the NDMO.
In response Mr. Lokopio says that he had written to the NDMO asking for clarifications, but when the NDMO failed to respond, he raised the matter directly with the Prime Minister.
"All I wanted to get was information on the break down of how the money was spent during the emergency phase in each of the affected areas of Western Province. So that when I go around those affected areas, I would be able to provide that sort of information to the people if they raised any questions relating to the issue," said Mr. Lokopio.
The NDMO stated that they were disappointed with the way the local media covered the issue without seeking clarifications from their office. "This is because if Premier Lokopio has not been supplied with information relating to the distribution of supplies on the ground, there is a break down of communication within the Western Province itself."