RAMSI clarifies travel payments

RAMSI Special Coordinator Nicholas Coppel has rejected as ludicrous, a claim that RAMSI has made improper payments involving the country’s judiciary.

Responding to a front-page story in Solomon Star, Mr Coppel said the payment to a local travel agency was to meet some of the standard costs of an international recruitment process.

The payment covered the cost of the airfares of the Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions and several other senior Solomon Island officials invited by RAMSI to assist in selecting suitable candidates for RAMSI-funded positions in the Solomon Islands law and justice sector.

Mr Coppel said this was not a new arrangement as RAMSI has always considered it important that key Solomon Islands stakeholders be part of this process as they were in the best position to judge who are the most suitable candidates.

“It is appropriate and important for the Chief Justice and senior Solomon Islands justice officials to lead the selection processes for advisers that would be working with them and their agencies.”

“Solomon Islanders are responsible for the management of their institutions. They are the best people to conduct the interviews because they know which skills are needed and the relevant experience required.”

Mr Coppel said the decision to conduct the interviews in Brisbane was a simple one of cost-effectiveness.

“With international applicants from more than seven different countries being interviewed, it was simply cheaper to conduct most of the recruitment in Brisbane than to fly the interviewees to Honiara.”

There were 30 vacancies, 93 interviews conducted, 63 of which took place in Brisbane he said.

Mr Coppel said it was only right that RAMSI cover all travel costs because the recruitment process was for RAMSI funded positions.

“It would not have been appropriate for the Solomon Islands Government to bear the burden of this cost.”

The Special Coordinator said it was disappointing that the Solomon Star did not check their facts before giving the claims such prominence.