July 3, 2015
News Update
AG vs AG on Forum account
The gap between what was said and what was done appears to define an ongoing debate over the Pacific Islands Forum bank account managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013 and 2014. “Expenditures from the Forum Account should be deemed authorized and not excessive,” RMI Attorney General Natan Brechtefeld told the Public Accounts Committee by letter at the end of June. He was referring to information from former Attorney General Filimon Manoni who told Brechtefeld that the Forum Account was set up as a “sub-account” of the RMI’s General Fund following past practices, and that spending would be under the control of the Secretary of Finance. Manoni also said “all purchases and procurement must comply with the bids or competitive bidding processes under the Procurement Act unless exempted by the Chief Policy Officer/Chief Secretary,” according to Brechtefeld. But Finance said it did not have control of spending for the Forum account and the Auditor General said virtually every expenditure violated RMI law.
Read more about this in the July 10, 2015
edition of the Marshall Islands Journal
AMI's on a new flight path
Air Marshall Islands (AMI) new General Manager Drauna Waqasokolala (pictured) is aiming high
after taking the helm at the airline. It is his second time with AMI. Since arriving Majuro May 25, it’s been work, work, work for Waqasokolala. “My goal is to take AMI to another level,” he said. Waqasokolala explained that AMI is moving to improve its domestic services. This includes AMI having its planes up in the air and continuing service to the outer islands. Meeting the flight schedule is another objective. He said if flights go as planned then it would have better results for AMI and help travelers. Changes for passengers now require travelers to outer islands to go through the metal detector and have their baggage screened through an x-ray machine. AMI has also taken the role of doing ground handling for Nauru Airlines, he said. Waqasokolala is keen on integrating strategies learned from his 25 years of aviation experience. Previously, he was the managing director and chief operating officer for four years for Inter Islands Airways Limited, a domestic airline in Fiji. He also worked for Air Fiji, Air Nauru, and AMI from 1995-1999 as cargo manager. He recalled AMI having five aircraft, a DC-8 jet, HS748, Saab 2000, and two Dornier 228s. “I’m happy to be here and to serve the people,” he said.
Fisheries revenue that 10 years ago was as low as $2 or $3 million a year could skyrocket to as much as $23 million this year, Nitijela members were told Friday. Fisheries revenue and spending by the national government was the subject of extended questioning at Friday’s Public Accounts Committee public hearing at the Nitijela. Fisheries revenue has increased as a result of RMI’s membership in the PNA group and because of its joint venture purse seiner with Koo’s Fishing Company, said Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph. He said MIMRA netted $9.7 million in 2011, a figure that jumped to $20 million in 2014. PAC member Ebon Senator John Silk read the MIMRA law provision governing what fisheries revenue can be spent for. He then asked Legislative Counsel Divine Waiti if this law allowed using fisheries revenue to purchase a plane or other non-fisheries purchases. Waiti confirmed the law did not allow for this. The Cabinet directed $4 million to be spent on non-fisheries projects in FY2013, according to committee members review of government audits. Joseph explained that MIMRA provides funds to the Ministry of Finance based on the Nitijela’s annual appropriations law and according to decisions by the RMI Cabinet. In FY2013, the Nitijela budgeted $7.5 million in revenue from MIMRA, while the audit shows that MIMRA actually contributed $11.5 million. Committee members asked for what the additional $4 million was spent on. Answering the question, Auditor General Junior Patrick read through the FY2013 audit listing the following expenses: $2 million for the purchase of Long Island Hotel for a USP campus, $400,00 for AMI, $300,000 for Ministry of Finance, and amounts from $250,000 downward for various ministries and agencies including Ministries of Health and Public Works, Korean Embassy, President/Cabinet operations, MIVA, Public Safety and Council of Iroij. Silk asked the Auditor General if the money spent outside of the $7.5 million approved by Nitijela was legal. Patrick said this was identified as a “finding” (problem) by the audit. The spending by Cabinet “didn’t follow the law,” Silk said. Majuro Senator David Kramer wanted to know whether MIMRA was considering more ventures such as the deal with Koo’s Fishing Company that was generating over $2 million a year to MIMRA. Joseph said MIMRA needs help of the government and country for the Marshall Islands to benefit in a much bigger way from the $7 billion tuna industry in the Pacific. “As the shot of the PNA office, we are on the fisheries map,” he said. But, he asked, “how can our community get a better return on our fisheries through sustainable development?” He said the Marshalls is moving very slowly in this area, and it needs national and local government involvement to maximize the return. “The heart (of the issue) is domestic development,” Joseph said. “How do we mobilize our people for labor and look at opportunities broader than just (collecting) licensing revenue?” … See more
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Marshall Islands Journal
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