$400,000 increase in Terminal Grant is unreasonable: TSI
The recent increase in Terminal Grant for all out going Members of Parliament (MP) has been criticized.
Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) in a statement yesterday said it believes that the increase of Terminal Grant from $100,000 SBD to $400,000 SBD is unreasonable and unjustifiable.
“We know that the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission, the ‘PEC’, have power under the Constitution to determine entitlements of MPs and to review and amend this on an annual basis.”
But such amendments each year must be published in the Gazette on 1st April of that year in order for this to enter into force, the statement added.
“If and when PEC makes amendments to the Parliament Entitlement Regulations (the “PER”) after 1st April in a given year, or when amendments are not published in the Gazette, by that deadline, such amendments will not take effect until 1st April in the year following provided it is published.
“It is clear that the PEC’s decision to increase the Terminal Grant is constitutional. But PEC cannot just impose any decision they want without substantiating those decisions,” TSI Chair, Ms. Ruth Liloqula, said.
“When determining, reviewing and/or amending the PER, the PEC is required by the Constitution to take into account certain factors including cost of living and other economic/financial considerations,” Ms Liloqula continued.
“The poor state of economic growth, social services and social and economic infrastructure suggests that no such consideration was done by PEC when this decision was made,” Ms Liloqula added.
“But the Public cannot know because there is no way of knowing the justification of this decision. The Constitution does not expressively require that the PEC table its report in the Parliament or make it public. There is no transparent way the public can know how these amounts are justified by PEC,” Ms Liloqula said.
The statement further highlighted that as it stands now, Terminal Grant for MPs remained at $100,000 per MP up until last year. On 1st April 2013, the PEC made and published amendments to the PER increasing the terminal grant to $400,000 per MP.
As far as the Constitution is concerned, that amendment has been in force since the date of its publication.
In March this year, the PEC changed its mind and made further amendments reducing the amount to $200,000 per MP.
However, that amendment was never published in the Gazette on 1st April this year. The question that arises is “was this intentional”, because the members of PEC cannot be said to be ignorant of this requirement. As members of PEC they should have an in-depth understanding of the PER.
What this means is that this particular amendment has not entered into force and will not until 1st April 2015. As such, the current regulation is that an outgoing MP is entitled to $400,000 as terminal grant (2013 amendment). Is this a mistake or is it intentional.
This is excessive and asking too much from the tax payers.
In the determination of Terminal Awards and other awards PEC is required to take into account factors set out in the Constitution when determining the award.
TSI therefore alerts the tax payers and the public to the questions that must be asked of the PEC in relation to this irresponsible and unjustified use of public money.
“Can PEC explain to the tax payers and the public that it did in fact take into account factors set out in the Constitution in this determination” TSI Executive Officer, Daniel Fenua, said.
“TSI demand that PEC’s report on the justification for how it increased the terminal grant from $100 K to $400 K in 2013 be made public. The public need to be told. TSI questions whether the PEC did in fact make its determination in 2013 strictly in accordance with the Constitution,” Mr Fenua added.
“It is clear also that this is an unfair and unreasonable use of public funds. One only has to look at the state of the National Referral Hospital, education and infrastructure to name a few, that this is a very irresponsible decision. While this may not be a legal argument it is common sense”, Mr Fenua continues.
“The recent Survey on the MPs Performance Assessment shows that majority of the MPs performed very poorly on the 9th Parliament, in terms of their attendance of Parliament Meetings and contributions to Bills, the most important responsibility of an MP, so why do they then deserve the $400,000 terminal grant.
“This is not a good reflection on leaders, and the most Honorable thing MPs can do is accepting the fact that we have serious economic condition in this country and do not deserve a 300 percent increase, Mr Fenua added.
While TSI recognises and acknowledges that PEC has the power to amend the PER, exercised that power then published the amendment in the Gazette as required is procedural or lawful with regard to the 2013 amendments to the PER, TSI still sees this decision as unreasonable use and abuse of PEC’s power, Ms Liloqula said.
As a way forward, TSI calls for the report of PEC with regard to the $400,000 terminal grant be made public for purposes of determining whether or not PEC took into account factors set out in the Constitution.
It is also apparent that Douglas Ete and Rick Hou are members under section 69A(3) of the Constitution but posing a conflict of interest issue.
“There is an element of conflict of interest here and TSI calls for the amendment of the constitution to allow for an independent body that does not have MPs in it to determine the PER”, Ms Lilioqula said.
Moreover, the decision to enter politics is a private/personal decision by MPs therefore, during their tenure as MPs, they should plan for when they exceed politics.
Terminal Grants is absolutely unjustifiable and unnecessary. The tax payers shouldn’t fund former MP’s re-election bids or retirements, but spend on the development of this country for our children and their children.
After all public servants retire from the Public Service with only their NPF or other savings they have so what’s so special about MPs receiving this extremely large amount of tax payers money for only four years.
We want to know what you think about the issue, call 28319 / 20391, or visit us at Hyundai Mall, or email us [email protected].