Fooling our donors

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New scheme created to return government MPs next election

BY ALFRED SASAKO

FOREIGN governments and lending institutions long known for their opposition to fraud and abuse of public funds may be unknowingly funding a scheme reportedly designed to return Government MPs at next year’s poll.

The scheme involves the creation of another monster known as the Constituency Machinery Grants (CMG) being administered by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD).

At least some $268 million of donor funding has been transferred into the new scheme, designed to return Government MPs at the next election.

The funds were from the National Transport Fund, which this year has a zero budget.

Australia, New Zealand and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) co-funded the National Transport Fund under the Development Budget.

ADB administers the NTF in conjunction with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development. It is not clear whether these donors are aware of the scheme. Donor funding to this year’s Development Budget fell by 52 percent, causing a lot of difficulties for project funding.

The Solomon Islands Government’s contribution to the NTF this year is roughly about $40 million, but this has not been paid because there is no longer a National Transport Fund, Island Sun was told yesterday.

Instead, the government is using the newly created CMG to legitimise the use of the donor funds, a businessman told Island Sun.

“The CMG would be the vehicle to fund all infrastructure projects in each MP’s constituency, using the funds which are no longer tied down to conditions set by donors for the use of the National Transport Fund.

“These constituency infrastructure projects are then put out on tender merely as a formality. Each government MP is involved so that kickbacks from these contracts are pooled for electioneering purposes,” sources with inside knowledge of the scheme told Island Sun.

“Winners of these tenders are largely pre-determined. So if you are not connected with any Government MPs, tough luck,” one source said.

The sources said one senior politician has already begun his share of the scheme by undertaking infrastructure projects in his own Constituency without the knowledge of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.

“This individual is using his own machinery to do the variety of projects he has chosen to undertake in his Constituency without tender. The funds being used in these so-called constituency infrastructure development projects are supposed to be closely monitored by donors.

“But it seems they are looking the other way,” the sources said.

The creation of the Constituency Machinery Grants is certain to kick a fuss amongst the public given the amount of money politicians received over the 12 years or so.

The figures below show what Transparency Solomon Islands has uncovered in its recent report. It found that:

Year     Total SIG Budget     Per Constituency (SBD)

2000     5 Million                   $100,000

2001     5 Million                   $100,000

2002     10 Million                 $200,000

2003    10 Million                 $200,000

2004     10 Million                 $200,000

2005     10 Million                 $200,000

2006     10 Million                 $200,000

2007     50 Million                 $1,000,000

2008     105 Million              $2,100,000

2009     105 Million               $2,100,000

2010     105 Million               $2,100,000

2011     105 Million               $2,100,000

2012     260 Million               $5,200,000

2013     300 Million               $6 million

2014     300 Million               $6 million

2015     330 Million               $6.6 million

2016     350 Million               $7 million

2017     325 Million               $6.5 million

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