Costs of PM Sogavare’s UNGA trip revealed
SOLOMON STAR has obtained documents relating to the cost of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s delegation to the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York and who helped pay the $2.5 million bill.
Details of the costs and composition of the 19-member delegation were contained in an internal Memorandum addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury and the Accountant General.
It shows the delegation was split into two groups – 12 funded by OPMC and seven (7) by members’ respective Ministries, according to the document.
Interestingly, the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (SPFFA) has stepped in, picking up “the total costs for airfares and per diems” for the 12 members from the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) on the UNGA delegation list, the document shows.
Total funding support from FFA was $1.56 million. This means the government would only meet accommodation costs averaging USD500 a night per person, according to the document.
It is not clear whether the regional organisation was approached by the Office of the Prime Minister for the funding. No comments could be obtained from the Office of the Prime Minister on this yesterday.
Written by Secretary to Prime Minister (SPM), Jimmy Rodgers, the two-page Memo was copied to Deputy SPM – Corporate Services, Financial Controller Acting, Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) and the Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister, according to the signed Memo dated 5th September 2022.
Solomon Star has obtained a copy of the Memo headed, Approval for the Budget of the OPMC members of the UNGA Delegation.
“The full delegation to UNGA is nineteen (19) people as (shown in the) table below. Twelve are funded under OPMC and seven (7) under their respective ministries,” it said.
“With regards the delegation under OPMC, FFA has agreed to meet the total costs for airfares and per diems.
Regional organizations usually pays a much higher per diem [allowances] based on UN rates.
“SIG will only meet the cost for accommodations, and other provisions including hosting of official dinners, transit and local transportation costs and gifts,” Dr. Rodgers said in the Memo.
“The contribution by the FFA has reduced the cost to SIG from an estimated 2.5 million dollars to $943, 265.60 – a savings of $1.56 million,” the Memo said.
The OPMC delegation members funded by the FFA are:
MEMBERS OF THE UNGA DELEGATION FUNDED UNDER OPMC
|1||Hon Manasseh Sogavare||Prime Minister|
|2||Madam Emmy Sogavare||Prime Minister’s Spouse|
|3||Hon Lily Maefai||MP for East Makira|
|4||Dr Jimmy Rodgers||Secretary to Prime Minister|
|5||Mr Gilbert John Osmond Muria||Attorney General|
|6||Mr Albert Kabui||Special Secretary to Prime Minister|
|7||Mr Leni Dalavera||Press Secretary|
|8||Mrs Suzie Wale||Executive Secretary|
|9||Mr Walter Diamana||Chief of Protocol|
|10||Mr Ipo Kabwere (Security Police)||CPP1|
|11||Mr Fred Toliliu (Security Police)||CPP2|
|12||Mr Hollingsworth Afui||Liaison Officer|
According to the Memo the accommodation cost per room per night averaged USD500.
“The accommodation cost is averaged at USD500 per room per night for all locations [Brisbane, New York, Washington, and Singapore]. There are variations in costs between locations but overall, it will balance, and any unspent balance will be retired,” the Memo said.
Other delegation members funded by their own Ministries are:
|13||Hon Jeremiah Manele||Minister of Foreign Affairs|
|14||Mr Colin Beck||Permanent Secretary, MFAET|
|15||Ms Fiona Indu||Assistant Secretary, UN & Americas|
|16||Hon Rex Ramofafia||Minister of Planning|
|17||Ms Susan Sulu||Permanent Secretary of Planning|
|18||Hon Ishmael Avui||Minister of Lands and Housing|
|19||Hon Tagini Makario||Minister of Public Service|
Some have questioned the cost of accommodation for the delegation and whether double dipping is going on.
According to some who are familiar with the UNGA, the costs of accommodations for at least three officials including the head of delegation is usually met by the United Nations.
“The same would apply to the Washington DC sector of the trip. Given that the meeting in Washington DC was at the invitation of President Biden, the US would be responsible for the cost,” adding this should be included in the budget.
Asked whether it was aware of the cost of the UNGA trip, the Opposition has confirmed it is fully aware of these documents.
By Alfred Sasako