21 Nov 2006

Solomon Islands Ministry of Commerce and Trade defends its officers over criticism

11:27 am on 21 November 2006

The Solomon Islands Ministry of Commerce and Trade has defended its officers from criticism over alleged misuse of funds meant for rural development.

The Ministry yesterday held a session with local media to brief on key developments within the department.

It has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks over claims its officers misused five-hundred-thousand US dollars in funding assistance tailored to bolster rural business activities near collapse as a result of the ethnic tension.

Permanent Secretary Geoffrey Wickham says the problem is that the funding programme is so open, far more people apply for funding than those who receive.

"For this year alone we received a total of fifty to sixty million dollars in total value of applications received by the department. Now this is as opposed to 3.3 million dollars allocation by government. So there is a huge demand for this funding and there's very little funding made available."