THE current trip to Taiwan by a 16-member government delegation is costing tax-payers more than $1.6million.
This was revealed in a report obtained by the paper yesterday from sources close to the Ministry of Finance.
This came after concerns were raised by the huge number of officials and the likely cost involved in the trip.
The report showed the total cost covered imprest, per-diems and airfares for the delegation which traveled to Australia, enroute to Taiwan last week.
The delegation left on Thursday for Brisbane where the Prime Minister attended the Solomon Islands Australia Business forum as a guest speaker on Friday.
The delegation finally left Brisbane for Taipei on Saturday evening and are now in Taipei.
According to the breakdown of the report it showed the airfare for nine (9) members of the delegation which included the Prime Minister, his wife, government ministers, Deputy Chair of Government Caucus and Backbencer are being met by the Republic of China (Taiwan).
While the airfares for the remaining 7 government officials which included Political Appointees, secretaries and Close protection officers are being met by tax-payers at a cost of $106,889.20.
The report further showed all members of the delegation are being paid per-diems by the government based to their position and rates which cost tax payers $459, 967.97. The delegation will spend about two weeks abroad.
The report also showed imprest being allocated for the trip totalling $1, 050, 312.00 ($1million).
All other related costs such as accommodation are not included, the source revealed.
“As such the total cost incurred is $1,617,179.17,” the source said.
The released report had attracted so much criticism from the social media over the past days since it had gone viral.
Speaking to the paper last night a top government official said, such costly trip is being met by the tax-payers.
The officer who is familiar with such government’s trip explained the imprest will cover for incidental costs such as accommodation, hosting of any government function or event, meals, transportation while on the ground and other costs that may arise during the trip.
The top official admitted its an expensive trip which is being met by the tax-payers.
A Honiara resident who declined to be named last night expressed shock and dismay when alerted about the cost involved in the trip.
He questioned whether the million dollar imprest will be spared or retired after the trip.
“It is something that we will have to wait and see,” the disappointed man said, adding as a tax-payer he is very disappointed just by looking at the cost.
He also questioned whether the Taiwanese government would also be providing per-diems for members of the delegation which they have invited.
“If that happens, members of the delegation would be benefiting so much from this trip.
“But in the end what are we going to benefit from,” the man questioned.
Attempts to get comments from the delegation in Taipei last night was unsuccessful.
The Parliamentary Opposition Group last week had criticized the trip claiming Solomon Islands have been known to sending huge delegations on such trips with the public having to foot the bills for such expensive trips.
“It is time that the Government should act responsibly to ensure that there is value for money in these sorts of trips. As a struggling nation, we must learn to live within our means and one way of showing this is to be realistic with our actions. Let us avoid the business as usual mentality but to ensure that we do the right things for our country,” it said.
The Opposition Office stated that the delegation is far too large for a Government overseas traveling.
According to Prime Ministers Office, the trip is made upon the invitation of the Taiwanese Government to give an opportunity for Prime Minister and Members of his Cabinet and Caucus to make a courtesy with the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, following her election victory in January this year and also to visit various business establishments and cultural settings in and around Taipei.
Members of the Prime Minister’s delegation includes his wife, Madam Emmy Sogavare, Minister for Infrastructure Development Jimmy Lusibaea, Minister for Police, National Security and Correctional Services Stanley Sofu, Minister for Rural Development Jimson Tanangada, Minister for Lands, Housing and Survey Moses Garu, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Duddley Kopu, Deputy Chair of Government Caucus Namson Tran, Backbencer Dickson Mua, Secretary to the Prime Minister Joseph Waleanisia, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Ronald Fugui, Executive Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister Suzie Wale, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Deli Oso, Foreign Affairs Protocol Officer Philip Moses and Close-Protection Police officers Wilson Maetala and Tome Faisi.
The delegation returns next Friday, 5th August 2016.
By STEPHEN DIISANGO