March 25, 2015
OPPOSITION POSITION ON FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS UNCHANGED
Principal Administrative Officer in the Opposition Leader’s office, Mick Beddoes, today confirmed that he had received a $225,000 allocation for the Opposition Office staff costs for 2015 from the Secretary General of Parliament, Viniana Namosimalua, on Friday March 20th 2015.
Beddoes said however that the comments in Fiji Sun news article yesterday [24th March] in which the Secretary General is quoted as saying that SODELPA has changed its stance and accepted the funds is factually incorrect.
Beddoes said SODELPA only agreed to the funding after the Parliamentary Business Committee of February 10th 2015 dropped its insistence that the funds be paid directly to the political parties represented in the Opposition.
This whole messy affair over funding was completely unnecessary,” he said.
According to Beddoes the correct approach was adopted following a visit to the Westminster, Scottish and Welsh Parliaments by a delegation comprising the Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni; Ms Namosimalua; Leader of the Opposition, Ro Teimumu Kepa and Leader of Government Business, Mr Pio Tikoduadua. They were informed that normally funds were paid to Opposition Parliamentary offices and not to the relevant political parties. This was the position that SODELPA had taken.
Beddoes said that while he was not at liberty to release copies of the minutes of the Business Committee meeting, the change in the Committee’s position on funding is clearly spelt out. The Opposition had decided to accept the funding because it stays in Parliament.
Beddoes said in the same meeting of the Business Committee the Attorney General had stated that the Opposition political parties were now getting more than what the Opposition received in the last elected parliament. He had said also that with funds allocated to the parties, it would be easier for them to hire staff of their choice.
Beddoes said this was another factually incorrect statement from the Attorney General.
He said when in 2006 he was the Opposition Leader, the then Secretary General to Parliament Mary Chapman gave him a letter outlining his budget allocation and the specific budget items involved.
This budget nine years ago was $317,800, whereas the combined budget of the two Opposition parties, SODELPA and the National Federation Party this year is $270,000,” Beddoes said.
This represented a 15% decrease. Beddoes reiterated the Attorney General was wrong. He added that this year’s Opposition funding will only exceed 2006, if the Secretary General funds the Opposition operating budgets to the levels they seek.
As for staffing, Beddoes said, there were no issues with employment of staff in 2006. A number of posts were allocated along with salaries. The political parties filled the vacancies with their people. It was as simple as that. Age was never an issue as it had become when he was proposed as Principal Administrative Officer.