29 October 2020

Still waiting for outstanding allowances

Newsroom, Honiara

Front-line officers claimed they are still waiting for their allowance since September and it's becoming uneasy for them.

In an exclusive interview with this paper via phone, a reliable source within the front-liners said they have put in a number of submissions on time but until today the Ministry of Finance and Treasury did not respond and explain reasons for the non-payment.

The source also revealed that most of the senior officers working as front-line officials have families and they haven’t seen their families for a month.

“And worst still their families did not know if they are working for money or just volunteering in the midst of the dangers caused by the pandemic,” the source said.

Solomon Star also contacted few Camp Management officials for verifications and was told that, yes a good number of the front-line officers are still waiting for their allowance.

The source also expressed that if the Ministry of Finance and Treasury explained the reasons for the non-payment of their allowance it will give them some comfort.

“But since September they are still waiting and worried about their families who haven’t seen then for a while now,” the source said.

These front-line officers cannot risk going back to their families because they are the ones doing most of the job in the quarantine sites so they have to isolate themselves under the quarantine protocol.

 While the government continues to commend the front line officials the source said these people need to be enumerating properly and in time to look after the welfare of their families.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his nationwide address on Monday stated that the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to put a lot of pressure on government finances.

The front-line official who spoke to this paper said while they all have the heart to protect the country it's important to work in the light of transparency and accountability when money involves.

Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary McKinnie Dentana last night assured the front-liners their outstanding allowances will be settled.

He attributed the delay due to the process involved in submitting the claims from responsible authorities looking after the front-liners.

The paper understood front-liners involved officers from health, immigration, customs, biosecurity, and police officers.

They are involved in checking aircraft and ships. Others are involved in the camp management of the quarantine stations and the isolation units.

Mr. Dentana explained these officers are paid an allowance for the work they did during the day or night they are rostered in. 

Since the declaration of the first COVID-19 case early this month, a front-liner is paid $400 when on shift for duty. The previous rate was $300 per shift.

“This change has also contributed to the delay in finalising the payment, he said.

“Normally their allowances are paid after their claims are compiled and submitted to the finance ministry for payment,” the ministry explained.

The ministry assured most of the front-liners are expected to receive their allowance later this week.

Meanwhile, this paper was reliably informed that 500 nurses voted to go on a sit-in protest tomorrow over the non-payment of allowances and benefits.

In response, Mr. Dentana said, their issues and demands are still being discussed between relevant authorities and associations.

Its understood nurses working at the clinics and hospitals in Honiara and Guadalcanal Province are part of this.