Solomon Islands Uni Students Confront Ministry Over Unpaid Allowances

Cash-strapped government delays payment to local students, short-changes those at USP in Fiji

By Simon Abana

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 21, 2017) – Government sponsored students at the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) yesterday confronted the Ministry of Education Human Resource Development (MEHRD) about their delayed allowances.

Hundreds of frustrated students fronted the National Training Unit (NTU) office at Tongs building, Point Cruz, to seek answers.

[PIR editor's note: On June 21, 2017 SIBC reported that 'Solomon Islands Government Revenue has fallen short against expected collections to the end of May, resulting in a $SBD269.8 million [US$33.7 million] revenue shortfall for the first five months of the year. ... Despite what the Government said was “record underspending”, revenue collection by the end of May was well below what the Government anticipated, resulting in the $269 million black hole.']

“We want urgent clarifications from the NTU why our allowances have not been paid,” a student spokesman said.

After few hours at the entrance of the office, NTU director Clement Tito and other senior officials came out to face the students.

 “We are not happy with how the ministry handled our issue since others have already received their allowances and the majority are still waiting,” the students’ spokesperson said.

In response, NTU director Mr Tito said the ministry has done its part.

“Firstly I want to assure all of you that the process to raise your allowance has already been done,” he told the students.

“We have been directed by the Ministry of finance to review the list and we did that today (yesterday),” Mr Tito continued.

“We have submitted the list to the responsible people at the ministry and hopefully students will receive their allowances this week.”

Mr Tito stressed his staff are working hard to ensure students welfare are served but stated the circumstances are beyond their control.

The students demanded their allowances be paid into their accounts this week or they will take another step.

Mr Tito urged the students to give the ministry time as they sort the allowance issue out.

The student action came as Finance Minister Snyder Rini hit out yesterday at the process of awarding scholarship to students under the DCC Government policy.

“Sadly, the process was abused, allowances inflated, students name duplicated, etc. that the government continue to pour money into what seems to be a ‘black hole’,” Mr Rini said.

“The Ministry of Finance and Treasury in line with Cabinet decision would therefore like to see the tertiary scholarship being reviewed,” he added.

The delay in settling student allowances also affected those studying overseas.

Recently, government sponsored students in Fiji have received only FJD$600 [US$291] last Friday for their June monthly allowance.

The students are expecting the normal FJD$1040 [US$504] monthly allowance for June, but what they received was only in three figures ($600).

Last week, Mr Tito confirmed that the delay is caused by current financial difficulties.

“The government money basket is empty.

“But I did my best within my capacity as the director and managed to secure the payments this week,” Mr Tito said.

Solomon Star
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