Imagine that…

Archive for April 22nd, 2005

Marshalls’ Very Own Travel Gate

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Imagine… Two weeks ago, the Marshall Islands’ Secretary of Finance was abruptly asked to step down. Secretary Saeko Shoniber had worked faithfully at the Ministry in a variety of capacities since 1987 and was Deputy Secretary at the time of her appointment to Secretary in 2001.

What was even more startling was that Secretary Saeko Shoniber was considered part of the “Majuro Miracle” — the revitalization of the “dysfunctional” Finance Office to a high level of accountability and production.

Just last August in President Note’s address to the Nitijela opening session, the first accomplishment mentioned was the success of “RMI’s initiative to reform its financial system.” and the best audits in Micronesia.

Since no reason for Secretary Shoniber removal has been given, many have spectulated it has to do with her ability to say “NO.

Could it be that this time it was because Secretary Shoniber said “YES” ?— Yes, to releasing the information to the Press under the transparency policy.

Imagine…The Miracle at Majuro becoming Marshall Islands’ Travel Gate. Back in January, Yokwe Online published an editorial, “The Road to Disaster”, which suggested that trips abroad by President Note have accumulated far too much air miles while there was disaster on the domestic front. The Marshall Islands Journal also printed the editorial and the issue gained wide notoriety.

Imagine…thousands of travel dollars revealed. One month later, for the first time in RMI history, the Finance Office released the names, agencies, destinations, dates, and amounts for travel expenses for December through January. The Marshall Islands Journal, published the finance data as a full page display, in its February 18 and March 4 editions. The Journal headlined it with “Who Went Where and Why?” and noted that the information’s release was “in line with the administration’s policy of transparency in government.”

It was in these lists, the extreme expenditures of some public officials and family members for accompanying travel, came to light.

Imagine…transparency on-hold. To follow up on the travel issue and to provide the information for our off-island citizens, Yokwe Online requested copies of the SAME DATA published in the Journal from the Finance Office. We were informed that the Secretary had stopped sending the travel information for the “time being.”

The information was already available and I had asked as a matter of courtesy, but it appeared that it was limited to ONLY some.

So on 3/20, thinking that perhaps the directive came from higher-ups, I contacted the President’s Office, but received no answer. On April 5, another email was sent. I finally received a response, but was informed that I had asked incorrectly for the information by asking if the President’s policy on transparency was “on-hold.”

Imagine…too much transparency. After putting together all the information, here is my conclusion.

Secretary Shoniber, released the information in line with the President’s transparency, but this was not what the Administration wanted. It was too much “transparency” for the Administration to handle.

Could it be that the Majuro Miracle has become the Marshalls’ Travel Gate?

Imagine that!

Although I never did receive the travel finance docs from the Government, here they are:
December Travel Finances
January Travel Finances

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 22nd, 2005 at 6:45 am

Posted in General