Dear Editor – Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s response in Monday’s Solomon Star issue (02-27-17) headline is quite extraordinarily explosive from a leader.
Mr Sogavare has appeared so aggressive to Sasako’s revelation of the recent discretionary payment to MPs.
I was merely responding to an inquiry of the possible sources (other than the Appropriation Act as approved by Parliament) of such discretionary disbursement, given that, as I was led to believe, it wasn’t clear where the lawful authorized source(s) of that may have come from.
Given the doubts surrounding that payment and the question that was put to me, I had offered that it could possibly be from what is called the National Development Fund provided by ROC, (which a residual balance of the total allocation of ROC Bilateral Grant Allocation and is usually around $15 million per annum).
Having stated the above facts, I didn’t at any part of my conversation with the writer referred to the NDF as a ’SECRET’ fund.
I must state it would be unreasonable on my part to do so.
That obviously is the writer’s impression of the fund which I don’t subscribe to.
During our conversation, I had emphasized that, if the assumption is correct that the source is the ROC/SIG National Development Fund (NDF); then it is my strong conviction, and as I had reiterated to the writer that the fund must be appropriated by parliament and focus must be on ‘National’ development projects.
The term ‘National’ is what I had emphasized in view of previous experiences in 2011 where it was allocated to friends, relatives and cronies.
That to me is morally wrong (because it is not national) and unlawful (as it wasn’t authorized by parliament).
As such, I don’t want any PM or SI Government to repeat that situation again.
My comment that the PM doesn____t have constitutionally entrenched discretionary power over donor funding (whether it be from donor or foreign Government sources) is a fact that I hold reading the constitution.
No government or PM is unquestionable because only parliament is sovereign and the rightful authority must be as stated in the constitution, parliament must authorize through the Appropriation Act.
My warning is for all PM including future PM, that we must appropriate donor funding.
There is no constitutional basis to assume discretionary powers over donor funding, it must be appropriated through the Appropriation Act.
Also, if it is intended for national projects then it must be so decided for national development projects.
During my Government I have allocated similar funds to hospitals like Kilufi’i and Helena Goldie, Munda International airport, Pacific Conference of Churches, national youth programs, clearance of now abandoned USP campus doma site and etc.
This was just to show an attempt to balance the idea and intention of projects of national interest.
To assume discretionary powers over donor funding without constitutional basis is WRONG and I must emphasize that it can potentially put any PM of our country in trouble.
All the wrongs will go with it if any person chooses not to, in my view.
So the gist’s of what I had tried to dispose to the writer during our casual conversation were that:
- If the source of that funding couldn’t be verified contrary to the explanation given by the two government officials then possibly it is the ROC/SIG National Development Fund (writer should verify),
- If it is true that ROC/SIG NDF was utilized then it must be appropriated as the PM under the constitution has no discretionary power to use it without being appropriated,
- If the above facts are correct, then we must avoid in future and put a stop for the holder of such an important post to assume it has constitutional power to have discretion over any donor funding whether it be tied or untied grant,
- Future NDF must be appropriated to fund national projects,
If the PM is so adamant that the funds are appropriated for, then it would be in the interest of our people for him to reveal the source of the fund. Where did the funds come from?
And to conclude, I reiterate that I never used the term SECRET over the NDF nor did I referred to it as such during my conversation with Alfred Sasako.
Gordon Darcy Lilo
Former Prime Minister