The Cabinet has been accused of acting illegally when it decided to channel disaster relief funds through members of parliament instead of channeling them through the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).
Former MP and Speaker of parliament Sir Paul Tovua was critical against government action in disbursing disaster relief funds to members of parliament.
He pointed out that NDMO is the legitimate body established by an Act of Parliament to manage and administer disaster relief funds, not MPs
“All disaster relief funds must be channeled through that body. That’s what the Act says,” he added.
“So for cabinet to take disaster funds away and channeled them through MPs is not only wrong, but illegal,” Sir Paul said.
He was referring to the payment of $3.3 million made to 33 MPs whose constituencies suffered the brunt of Cyclone Raquel last month.
Each of the 33 members was paid $100,000 to discharge to those affected his/her constituency.
Government had defended its action following earlier criticisms of the issue by the parliamentary leader of Opposition, Jeremiah Manele.
Government pointed out that the move was made in light of ensuring smooth and prompt delivery of most needed relief supplies to those affected.
But Sir Paul disagreed saying channeling public funds through MPs only goes to reinforce the notion that MPs are ATMs (Automatic Teller Machine).
Sir Paul said sarcastically speaking our current members of parliament are more like ATMs machines since they handle large amount of public funds.
“The problem with this is, it creates a dependency mindset amongst our people. When they need money, they run straight to the MP. In essence people become dependent on the MP for almost everything” he said.
Sir Paul said the saddest aspect of the situation is these constituency funds only goes to supporters or voters of the MPs.
He said voters who supported a different candidate who lost in the elections would certainly expect nothing from the MP.
He said often these large number of voters who voted differently are left high and dry for the next four years.
Sir Paul said it has become notable and obvious for one to realize that despite the fact parliament members take charge of millions of dollars during their tenure in parliament, very little or no development at all is visible in their respective constituencies.
Sir Paul had served as parliamentary representative for Central Guadalcanal constituency from 1976 – 1980 and Speaker of Parliament from 1994-2001.
He pointed out that although members of parliament during his days were allocated only $3’000 a year, they were able to fully utilized the money for development purposes.
He said respective Ministries were tasked the responsibility of administering the funds on development projects and not MPs.
By CHARLEY PIRINGI