TRANSPARENCY SOLOMON Islands (TSI) is disappointed in the new entitlements that the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) has awarded this year.
In particular TSI is concerned that the advance of pension in the 2010 Parliamentary Entitlements Regulations (PER) gazetted on 1st April may be illegal and is not proper.
TSI is concerned that Regulation 27A of the PER seems to allow current Members of Parliament (MPs) to make a 12 months advance on pension for development projects. This is improper and liable to be declared as unlawful given that payment of a pension does not accrue until MPs vacate office. The Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) must clarify to the public whether they intended the advance of pension to be made to current MPs.
“In addition, the new Discretionary fund is a step backwards. The new fund replaces the Micro-projects and Charities Fund and has been increased by 87.5% from $80,000 in 2008 to $150,000 in 2010. The fund is more open to abuse than the old fund. Like the old fund, it can be spent at the discretion of a MP without a committee but the new fund is wider and so more difficult to keep track of. The 2010 PER states that the fund can be used for ‘charitable purposes’ which are undefined. Also having MPs manage and control the fund diverts them from their primary role as legislators to becoming service deliverers.”
TSI recommended in its submission in February to the PEC that the old Micro-projects and charities Fund be reviewed and administered by an independent body. This recommendation has not been followed.
“Fundamentally it appears that the PEC does not understand the role of MPs – as lawmakers not as people who give out money.
TSI also recommended, in its submission to the PEC, that all entitlements be revoked and instead MPs be adequately remunerated in their salaries. Instead, salaries have been increased and so have some entitlements. Without reasons from the PEC, it is hard to understand why increases in other entitlements are justified.
“Further, the PEC process still lacks transparency, as submissions from the general public were not sought. The submissions that were made were not open to public scrutiny. The public has the right to know how the public funds are spent and why they are being spent on increased entitlements to MPs. The PEC has failed to justify its reasons for the changes.”
TSI is calling on the PEC to clarify their intention on the advance of pension – is it for current MPs or former MPs? – and to provide full justification as to why other entitlements have been increased.