PRIME Minister Rick Hou says his government has been able to stabilise the country’s fiscal situation during its tenure in office.
Mr Hou assumed leadership late last year after his predecessor Manasseh Sogavare was ousted in a no-confidence vote.
Speaking in parliament during his sine die speech, Mr Hou said when he came into power one of his first priorities was to stabilise the country’s fiscal situation.
“My aim was to try and plug the holes in the government coffers,” he said.
Some of the immediate measures undertaken include reforms in the Prime Minister’s Officer in several critical areas.
“These areas include mobile phone policy after I found out that the telephone bill has been a major over expenditure,” he said.
The mobile phone issue within the PMO made headlines in the local media at that time.
“I directed the PMO officials to review the usage of phones,” Mr Hou said.
He further added that PMO had a policy which was already reaping significant cost savings.
Another significant cost cutting measure targeted was the hire of private motor vehicles, which was also making headlines prior to Mr Hou taking power.
He said he introduced proper management procedures to curb the cost of hiring.
“This new policy is also reaping huge cost-saving,” Mr Hou stated.
He added that overseas medical treatment and travel is an area of huge expense to the country.
“These costs increase further if the MPs are accompanied by their spouses together with the escort,” he added.
Mr Hou said he had directed his officials to explore health insurance cover instead of the current arrangement.
“I am convinced we do have cheaper options and we hope to take this up next year.”
Just recently it was revealed the government has been spending $4 million a year to lavishly feed members of Cabinet and Caucus during their weekly meetings.
Mr Hou admitted in his sine die motion that the fact that all food costs for public events are charged to the PMO is not an excuse.
“We are now putting in place measures that will control this – especially in Cabinet and Caucus,” Mr Hou confirmed.
With regards to the political appointees, Mr Hou also mentioned when he became the Prime Minister he cut down on the number of PAs as a cost cutting measure.
He said his office has made provisions in the 2019 budget to accommodate several political appointees in 2019.
“At the same time we have produced a guideline for the recruitment of PAs to ensure the Government is best served by the best suitable people.”
Mr Hou said he believed he had paved the way for the new government to take over after the 2019 national general election.
By ANDREW FANASIA