Opinion

Opposition Gains Ignored In Office Funding Uproar

The Opposition should be grateful instead of being critical of the new parliamentary party office funding. The Secretary-General  of Parliament Viniana  Namosimalua has done it a favour by increasing the
16 Jan 2015 12:59
Opposition Gains Ignored In Office Funding Uproar
Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa.

The Opposition should be grateful instead of being critical of the new parliamentary party office funding.

The Secretary-General  of Parliament Viniana  Namosimalua has done it a favour by increasing the Opposition allocation from the 2015 Budget from $10,000       per member of Parliament to $15,000

She made the decision after the Opposition said $10,000 was not enough to meet the operational costs of its office.

That’s a 50 per cent increase. Six staff, including Mick Beddoes were doing voluntary work. If all are to be accommodated then the Opposition will have to work within the budget of $225,000 (for 15 SODELPA MPs) and $45,000 (for three National Federation MPs).

Other issues in the Opposition’s favour include the following:

– Rent-free office

– Fully furnished office

– Free power and water

Eyebrows were raised when Mrs Namosimalua decided to increase the funding after discussions with the Minister for Finance, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

The increase busted the parliamentary budget and forced the Secretariat to readjust other spending.

The new funding arrangement has saved Mr Beddoes’ job as chief administration officer in the Opposition Office.  Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, who has stood by him, over his controversial nomination, now has absolute power  on the use of the funds and the appointment of personnel. She does not now have to follow civil service rules in the hiring of staff.

When the question of Mr Beddoes’ eligibility to manage the office came up last year because  he was over the civil service retirement age of 55, Ro Teimumu defended him.

The Opposition argued that Ro Teimumu had the right to select office staff.

But the debate was whether the process should be subjected under civil service rules because public funds were involved.

If Mrs Namosimalua had gone this way then Mr Beddoes would have been ruled out.

It would have created a conflict between the Legislature (Parliament) and the Executive (Civil Service).

However, Mrs Namosimalua went the other away. It was the right option because it upheld the doctrine of the separation of power. Now Ro Teimumu has the freedom to pick her own staff without any scrutiny except from within  her caucus.

One thing that cannot be ignored though is the accountability factor for the funding.

The Opposition is still required to table a report in Parliament on how it spends the funds.

The alleged interference by the Minister for Finance is nonsense. Discussions between the minister and other ministries or departments are part and parcel of Government  functions and dynamics.

The allegation by Ro Teimumu is part of an Opposition obsession that the Minister for Finance dictates many things. This is not true.

In this case the increase in funding was Mrs Namosimalua’s decision.

The formula used to determine the funding structure is fair because it is proportionate to the number of seats in Parliament.

When you apply the doctrine of  separation of power, the argument that FijiFirst parliamentary office will have savings because ministers enjoy ministerial benefits, does not hold water.

The Opposition should stop complaining.

If it wants more funding then it should work towards winning more seats in the next general election.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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