The government appropriations budget was passed into law after 3pm yesterday after a full day of deliberations in the second and third reading of the bill. The government’s budget passed the expenditure of $53.9 million and revenue of $45.1 million.
Members debated some areas of the budget and heard the report of the Public Accounts committee delivered by Deputy chair Rhonda Tiakia Tomailuga.
One of the questions heard in the morning session was from Mutalau MP Maureen Melekitama asking why there is a new unit established under the Office of the Secretary to Government called the donor coordination unit, and how different is this unit from the PMCU. To which the premier responded that this donor unit deals directly with the countries to which Niue has signed diplomatic relations with.
In the afternoon Common Roll MP O’love Jacobsen asked the minister of infrastructure to explain what happened to the order of two new generators for the new power station but these generators are not working.
Minister Crossley Tatui confirmed that the two generators were bought with funding from the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and it was at no cost to the government.
Several departments reported to the Public Accounts committee their manpower concerns with many positions vacant such as the Crown Law office with only one lawyer working there.
Then there is the Police department having difficulties with high staff turnover.
Common Roll Billy Talagi commented on how times have changed and how disappointing to see that young people are not interested in a career as a police officer, some leaving the force for higher salaries elsewhere.
Talagi explained that in the past police officers were considered pillars of society and now it is not good to see very few officers working. He suggested that the government seek assistance from NZ for more training of the young people to attract them towards a career in the Police.
Member from Hikutavake Ian Hipa questioned the decision not to start the road upgrade project from Hikutavake and Namukulu because of the number of tourists travelling that way to the scenic sites, most of which are located on that side of the island.
Premier Tagelagi explained that the intention was to start in the areas where the roads are in their worst conditions like the road from Avatele to Hakupu, but the roads from Hikutavake to Namukulu will be next.
After the budget was passed, the Fono Ekepule attempted to discuss the review and update of the Standing Orders, but after concerns raised by several members asking for more time to read through the recommendations for review, the revised Standing Orders was tabled for the next meeting.