The findings of the Auditor General revealed that a total of $167,328,248 was identified to consolidate the National Disaster Operation Committee for the whole of Solomon Islands Government’s approach to Preparedness and Response Plan to Covid-19 pandemic. Given the revelation of how these funds have been abused and siphoned off by those close to power delivering services that are clearly not value for money charged for these, Transparency Solomon Islands calls for the publication of those individuals sitting in the National Disaster Operation Committee in the first place. For obviously they did not do their job to allow this to happen provided that they were not part of the problem. If they were into this scheme they must be removed from those positions of power, that they currently sit in.
Transparency Solomon Islands appreciates the Permanent Secretary of the responsible Ministry for NDMO meeting with and responding to media calls for interview. Regardless of whether or not the public accepts his response, it is good to see an officer in position of power taking responsibility for the actions of the institution under his portfolio. Nevertheless NDMO was assigned the whole of government preparedness and response to social and economic impact of the Covid-19 and allocated $47,935,024 of the funds. For this they were to coordinate the management of camps, quarantine facilities being appropriately equipped. So what happened with this money, when for example the quarantine facility for Choiseul Province in Taro remains uncompleted, but the public knows money was paid to failed quarantine facilities. Should they (NDMO) responsible NDMO staff get away with this. Certainly not! Before the Auditor General’s audit, it was commonly alleged that contracts were given to family members and friends and those closely associated with those working in positions of power in NDMO. All procurements’ were done with no regard at all to the laws of this country, the Public Finance Management Act 2013, their own act the National Disaster Council Act 1989, Emergency Regulations Powers, Financial Instruction in force and the Government Procurement Contract Manual. From the findings it is clear that those in position of power at NDMO failed to keep up with the experiences of countries that have Covid-19 in the control of the spread and transmission of the virus. That would have informed them that they had time to comply with existing financial regulations for procurement. With good border security these countries like Australia for example, kept Covid-19 out for a long time ensuring they got themselves prepared for when it did arrive and for when they will open their borders. Solomon Islands thanks to our strict border control has the same amount of time as these neighboring countries.
NDMO therefore has time to ensure it follows the law in the implementation of responsibilities given to them, but they chose otherwise and spend money to benefit themselves, their families and friends. What should concern the taxpayers of Solomon Islands is the fact that prior to Covid-19 NDMO was allocated $1.5million for disaster relief, an amount increased to $33,617,600 in the Supplementary Budget 2020 September spending. They spend 95% of this funds on other relief not related to Covid-19 whereby $4.5 million of the Covid-19 fund being spent on food relief for victims of Cyclone Harold. Whilst this is a worthy cause, without the paper trail, documentation etc. how many people, communities etc. were fed spending this funds and for how long. Do those who receive the food relief believe what food they receive is worth that much. In the past during relief food supply documentations were done. It is clear that the sole reason for not doing the paperwork and complying with the laws that underpin procurement is intentional and nothing more. It allowed officials and as alleged during the Covid-19 restrictions and now verified through the Auditor General’s audit to commit the following corrupt conduct and practice under the guise of the SOE Emergency Powers Regulation:
Sidelining or non-compliance with Financial Instructions requirements for tendering and awarding contracts -breaking the laws of Solomon Islands.
Awarding contracts to their families, friends and close associates and entities that do not have a business license -avoidance of tax payment.
Conflict of interest – therefore service rendered over-inflated and not the best value for money.
Spend public funds well before the issuance of warrant by Minister of Finance – power unto themselves, breaching the Supreme Law of the
country.MY WHAT SAYS ONE CONCERNED CITIZEN.
Noncompliance with purchase requisitions, lack of delivery dockets and evaluation report
Millions on food probably for their canteens or to friend that pay them a commission fee (NDMO officers involved). It is unacceptable that an organisation such as NDMO failed to follow the procurement rules, omitting it from the Bid Waivers. It is really very poor on the part of NDMO too, to obtain goods in advance without any documentations at all. Transparency Solomon Islands sees no valid excuse at all for such a practice by NDMO and those providing service not providing the list of goods they provide in credit. This is an easy and simple exercise/process unless of course the deals made are fishy from the start and from entities that are not licensed and therefore have inflated their prices. To top it up with the abuse of the Covid-19 SOE response funding they bought two new vehicles at the value of $677,500. Yes it is an emergency period but it is not a good enough excuse no is it warranted for NDMO Director and his top level management group to abuse funds for their own agenda and interest.
Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption (SIICAC) to investigate officers who are in the decision-making position of NDMO and charge/suspend them. Obviously a number of the corrupt conducts revealed by the Auditor General’s audit report of the Covid-19 funding may be criminal and urge that the Commissioner of Police investigates further. These findings are just too important to be shelved somewhere and gather dust. How we the Solomon Islands as a country and our government deal with the revelations of the Auditor General’s audit report will have an impact on the level of assistance from our diplomatic friends, development partners etc. in any future disasters. Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Executive Government to investigate the conduct of the National Disaster Operation Committee and National Disaster Management Officials and the Covid-19 Oversight Committee. It is their responsibility to monitor the Covid-19 SOE responses. An investigation will inform public that they are not in it with the rest of those handling the funds.
Bottom line is the Covid-19 SOE Emergency Powers Regulations vested almost but not all power in the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and not the officers of the NDMO or those in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or any other bodies. An investigation can also reveal the political aspects or dimension of these contracts for sure there must be a political dimension to these abuses.