THREE Government Ministers have owed the Heritage Park Hotel more than SBD $900,000 in food and accommodation.
The Parliamentary Opposition Group yesterday disclosed information which could cost tax-payers of this country
The three ministers are Minister for Agriculture & Livestock August Auga, Minister for Mines & Energy David Dei Pacha and Minister for Tourism Bartholomew Parapolo.
According to documents obtained by the Opposition Group, it has revealed that the three ministers have been residing at the hotel since January of this year until May.
Documents show these bills totaled to $ 948, 920.90 dating back to January this year to the beginning of May this year.
The bills are for accommodation and food.
According to documents including correspondences between the hotel, the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Parliament; it was disclosed that the ministers have refused to pay the bill and have forwarded their bills to the the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for payment.
However, PMO has refused and forwarded it to the National Parliament, the Opposition statement said.
According to the correspondence obtained by the Opposition Office; the National Parliament has also refused to pay for the bills and had made it clear that ‘MPs are not qualified to reside in any hotels once they become Ministers and therefore any payment made by PMO or National Parliament will be illegal.’
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Mr Auga when contacted yesterday by the paper said that the bill should be settled by PMO and not him.
“Government was formed on December 8, in 2014 and I was the Minister of the crown at time and was without a residence so they (PMO) told me to reside at Heritage Park Hotel.
“So I resided there while waiting for a house. It was PMO which advised me to reside at Heritage Park Hotel because government was already formed.
“I waited for the government to find a house for me but there was no response so I moved out from the hotel April this year to Burnscreek area where I’m currently residing there up until today,” Mr Auga said adding that the bill was brought to him, but he won’t settle the payment because its supposed to be PMO’s responsibility.
“This bill was brought to my office but I gave it back to them so that PMO can pay for it because it was the government which told me to reside at Heritage Park Hotel.
“Therefore the bill should be paid by PMO and not me,” Mr Auga told Solomon Star yesterday.
Attempts to get comments from both Mr Parapolo and Mr Pacha proved unsuccessful last night.
Following the disclosure by the Opposition Office yesterday, the Leader of Opposition Jeremiah Manele has described this as ‘yet another misuse of public funds and waste of public resources.’
“Last week we were informed of a Cabinet decision for a compensation payout of $3.7 million to MV Sun Express that has forced tax-payers to foot the payment. Now tax-payers will again be forced to foot about $1 million for the luxury of certain ministers,” Mr Manele said.
Mr Manele said he was also quite surprised that the corresponding documents have also indicated that the three Ministers have refused to pay for the bills and told hotel staff that the Prime Minister will pay for the bills.
“So who is going to pay this bill?” the Leader of Opposition asked.
Mr Manele explained that all Ministers are entitled to a housing allowance, thus such bills should not be paid by the Government but by their own pockets.
“How can the Government justify this? Because it is clear enough that such expenses are unbudgeted for and they are likely to make more virements to meet such unbudgeted commitment at the expense of tax-payers of this country,” he said.
The Leader of Opposition said such action can be best described as ‘no-care’ attitude and misuse of public funds.
Mr Manele adds that it is becoming a common trend that the DCC Government is more focused on splashing the cash for political convenience rather than focusing on providing services to the people.
Meanwhile, the Leader of Opposition has reiterated its call to the Prime Minister to be responsible and responsive to issues raised by the Opposition Group.
“For the sake of public trust and confidence, the Prime Minister and his cabinet have to be swift and responsive in clearing issues of national concern as responsible leaders,” he said.
As such, Mr Manele said the Prime Minister and his Cabinet owes tax-payers a thorough explanation.