IS IT WORTH THE SPEND? – News from the Star of Solomon

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More details on the hefty bill revealed

THE GOVERNMENT insists that the 2.5 million bill incurred by the Prime Minister’s delegation to the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York is worth spending.

The Prime Minister’s Secretary, Dr Jimmy Rodgers, took this position in light of additional details regarding accommodation costs for members of the Prime Minister’s delegation.

He told local media at a press conference yesterday that from the government’s perspective the trip was worth spending as all agendas were being discussed globally.

He said that in terms of personal relations and harmonization with the United States and Australia, it was the first time. The Prime Minister has met with the US President and the Australian Prime Minister.

There are also personal bonds that underlie the relationship that we must follow.

“So it’s worth the spend,” said Dr Rodgers

He assures that the fund under the office of the Prime Minister will be withdrawn through the OPMC, while part of the funding from government departments will be withdrawn through the Ministry of Finance.

He also assures that the fund from the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (SPFFA) will be withdrawn through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Collin Beck also added that the cost of the trip is small compared to its benefit.

He explains that there are a number of mandatory events that heads of government are required to attend.

One of them is the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forums. The second most important is the meeting of the Melanesia Spearhead Group. At the global level, the United Nations General Assembly is where world leaders gather each year and where the Prime Minister is always present.

He said that in the recent United Nations General Assembly, more than 190 countries participated, where they established cooperation, sought peace and discussed mutual understanding on global issues.

“This is a platform where leaders talk to each other and try to get a great understanding of global issues.

“When we look at development cooperation with the international community, the cost is low,” he said.

Further details have emerged on accommodation costs for members of the Prime Minister’s delegation to and from the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York.

Solomon Star obtained details of the types of hotels used, daily rates for each hotel in Australia, New York and the Pacific Leaders Summit with President Joe Biden in Washington DC and a five-day transit in Singapore.

Members of the 12-member delegation are listed as follows:

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Madame Emmy Sogavare;

Dr Jimmy Rodgers (Secretary to the Prime Minister or SPM)

Mr. Gilbert John Osmond Muria (Attorney General)

Albert Kabui and Hollingsworth Avui

Mr. Leni Dalavera & Walter Diamana

Ipo Kabwere and Fred Toliliu

Hon Lily Maefia & Suzie Wale

The 12-member delegation that traveled with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare spent a total of seven nights at the Royal Albert Hotel in Brisbane on the way to New York, according to the document.

The cost per room is $500 per night per person.

According to the document titled, Budget proposal for accommodation and other costs for the seven nights in Brisbane totaled 24,500 USD or 230,696.69 SBD$.

In New York, the 12-member delegation, including Prime Minister Sogavare and his wife, Emmy Sogavare, spent nine (9) nights at the Westin Hotel at a cost of US$31,500 or the equivalent of US$263,598.33 SBD.

In Washington DC, the delegation spent five nights at the Washington Hotel at a total cost of US$17,500 or 146 SBD 443.52, according to the documents.

On their return, the delegation traveled back via Singapore where the members spent five (5) nights at the Hilton Orchard – one of the finest hotels in Singapore. The bill for this was $17,500 or SBD 164,783.43, according to the documents.

It is unclear why the transit took nearly a week for the delegation to pass through Singapore.

Other charges totaling $25,000 or 235 SBD 404.90 were also listed.

These charges listed three official functions costing $12,000 or SBD 112,994.35, four transit charges at $8,000 or SBD 75,329.57, and five gifts costing $5,000 or SBD 47,080.98.

According to a memorandum dated 5e September 2022.

The memo was drafted by the Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM), Dr Jimmy Rodgers, who wrote: “In relation to the delegation from the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet (OPMC), the FFA has agreed to take into covers the full cost of airfare and per diem.

“SIG will only cover the costs of accommodation and other arrangements, including the organization of official dinners, transit and local transport costs and gifts.

“The FFA contribution reduced the cost to SIG by approximately $2.5 million to $943,265.60 – a savings of $1.56 million,” Dr Rodgers said.

In addition, the delegation requested an additional USD 18,000 for accommodation, claiming that the cost of hotels had increased due to late payments.

A payment voucher issued for the payment shows that the USD 16,000 was paid under the ministry/department reference number PMOCAB584/22, according to documents Solomon Star obtained.

BY CHARLES KADAMANA & ALFRED SASAKO


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