I write with the aim to provide a view in relation to the article on the 21st of May 2020 entitled “Parliament Board Sitting Allowance Triples”.
This view will be based on the reading of the current law and the lack of transparency and accountability from the Prime Minister whom your article referred he made the decision to this change. The writer also welcomes feedbacks and or other constructive critics based on this view.
The Parliament (Administration) Act [Cap 306] establishes the Parliament Board. The Parliament Board consists of four (4) members and three (3) of which are people elected member of Parliaments. They are the Prime Minister himself who decided to increase his own sitting allowance, by endorsing the changes made in December, the Leader of Opposition and the Speaker of Parliament. All these three are heads of the three main groups in the Parliament. One is the Head of Parliament (Speaker), Leader of Opposition (Opposition side) and the Government side – the Prime Minister. The other member is the Parliamentary Counsel. She is appointed under the statutory requirement of section 15 of the State Law Act [Cap 242] with the primary function to draft legislation on behalf of the Government as directed by the Attorney General.
Thus her Primary Office is stationed with the State Law. Since her Office prepares Bills, drafts legislation for the Parliament, during Parliament sittings, her second office is based in the National Parliament Building itself. In order to achieve a proper administration of the Parliament, these 4 officers are required to exercise their role and functions as heads of the critical bodies to enable a functioning national Parliament.
All of the above elected members and the Parliamentary Counsel are workers of the Parliament in a sense because their current positions aside from the Board, is directly linked to the administration and significantly impact on the work of the Parliament.
Their membership in the Parliamentary Board is an integral duty that comes with being in the above heads of Parliament offices is the requirement for them to be sitting in the Parliament Board. The Parliament Board is not a new Office established under the legislation. If so, then their allowance would rightfully warrant an additional. This is because it is another unrelated additional duty on top of their current job.
But their membership is required for the administration of the Parliament due to their current position as either the Head of the Government or Head of the Parliamentary Council Unit.
Thus, based on this analysis and the origination of their positions and or where they are placed in the Parliament, my perspective is that to ask for an additional sitting allowance and even to triple is baseless. It is akin to asking the Government for more salary, money or compensation to do their current job. The point is, the day to day roles and functions of these individuals are already paid for by their monthly salaries and the national budget.
For these elected members, the Parliament (Members’ Expense and Allowanced) (Amendment) Act No. 45 of 2017 gives all members of Parliament the following allowance but (not limited to other allowances they are entitled to not included in this Act): annual Allowance, sitting allowance, touring allowance, accommodation, take home entitlements and constituency allocations etc …
This view should be highly considered before approval in light of the country’s current financial hardships or forthcoming financial impacts from Covid-19 national and international measures and Tropical Cyclone Harold recovery expense. Both of which will hurt the national budget dearly.
Last but not the least is the decision of the current Prime Minister to make a decision. This is a decision endorsed by the last Prime Minister MP Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas.
The current Prime Minister endorsed the resolutions made under the former Board and under the membership and approval of the former Prime Minister who is the current Deputy Leader of Opposition, Charlot Salwai.
Alternatively, for the interest of the public, what makes it more concerning is the fact the there is no evidences or reports from PMO showing whether he has sought advices from State Law Office, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management or at least remind himself of the additional use of public fund before making this decision. His decision, I believe, from what comes to the public from the media, was made in a haste and failed to consider some long term financial impacts to public funds.
It is not a good governance practice and undemocratically for the Prime Minister as the leader of this country, elected by the people, to be making decision without public transparency and accountability. The people voted him to this office and so their interests must come first in all decisions he will implement, is doing and continued to be doing in the future.
The current Leader of Opposition should make further inquiry into the increase of this allowance and make further assessments whether to vote for it or not in the name of public interest. He should reinforce his current decision, not to take extra money for these duties.