Constituency Development Fund and Shipping grant and buying votes
IT is on the lips of many, the social media and media, the questioning of why there is now a flurry of activities by some members of Parliament purchasing Ships, Out Board Motors, Roofing Iron, distributing cash to churches, paying school fees, building of market facilities and others at the eleventh hour. Isn’t this bribery and undue influence and vote buying?
Some evidences have come to light that MPs who are recipients of the shipping grant and transport fund in the name of their constituencies just start purchasing ships now. Some received the millions in 2013 and again in 2016. Whilst some MPs have gone ahead well before election fever and purchased ships, others waited till now to do so. It does not need rocket science to see how such action cannot be said to be aimed at undue influence on the voters given that election is just months away.
Shipping grant was channel through the Ministry of Infrastructure Development [MID] and it comes under two categories, shipping grant, equipment and machineries.
This assistance, including purchasing of out board motor, assisting of churches should be delivered to the people by members of parliament each year in the last four years in the case of some over the period of 8 or more years. The activities we now see where the delivery of goods is being done to their supporters and others should have been done during the life of this 10th parliament and not just now. Transparency Solomon Islands acknowledges and commends the few MPs that have been doing that.
As shared by constituents during the last three years only the voters, families and extended families of the MPs and CDF officials receive benefit from MP. Can the authorities see these activities now for what it is [bribery, vote buying and undue influence/] on the choices that voters will have to make? Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the responsible authorities to put in place policy and relevant legislation that criminalizes such activities and practices. Transparency Solomon Islands would not raise this question had its clients and constituents not observed the same and much more where loggers, and other foreign business men are getting into the act in support of some intending candidates.
Transparency Solomon Islands understands this funding was available to MPs who are recipients on behalf of their Constituency since 2013 and they have no excuse to delay the purchasing of a ship for their constituency. In the case of the Savo/Russell MP what did he use the CDF for, that he had to dip into the Shipping Grant allocation to buy outboard motors.
Transparency Solomon Islands acknowledges that some members of Parliament were proactive in releasing people’s money the [constituency development fund] only at a time when National General Election is approaching.
Purchasing of ship and other forms of assistance by some MPs at the 11th hour is a political strategy to ensure they influence the voter’s choice. It is politically motivated and a broad day campaign strategy of some MPs to influence public opinion and voter choice come election time. They fail to explain to the illiterate voters that the CDF is their money and not an MPs money as they are led to believe. The Constituency Development Fund and other funding such as the $500,000 Discretionary fund, the touring allowance are funds allocated to the people and paid for by tax-payers of Solomon Islands.
This 11th hour assistance raises serious question of why is it that they don’t purchase ship, Out Board Motor, Roofing Iron and the lists goes during their first or second year of parliament because constituency development fund is channel through members of Parliament yearly and not just the last year of the parliament.
Constituency Development Fund belongs to the people and should not be politicized. This fund is tax payers’ money from the working-class tax, businesses and taxes charged on fisherman, resource owners, farmers in the rural areas, mobile phone owners and the list goes on who are also paying tax to the government, on their salaries, productions and for goods and services. Taxpayers are expecting better services from CDF for the development of community infrastructure, health centers, medicines, trained health workers, teachers and better transport services, water supply and sanitation and other essential services that are needed at the rural areas.
These are services that need to be established at constituencies in the country during the four-year term of an MP and not at the eleventh hour. Transparency Solomon Islands commends members of Parliament who did well to roll out infrastructure development to build roads, purchase of ship, building clinics and classrooms under Constituency Development Fund. Sadly, they are just not many of them.
Transparency Solomon Islands acknowledge members of Parliament who put into good use the shipping grant to purchase ship. However, public are asking of those purchasing ships now why do it at a time leading up to National General Elections. 11th hour release of funds depict a picture of current MPs strategy to sway voters opinion to vote him/her back to parliament. Transparency Solomon Islands appeal to Tax payers not to be deceived by kind of a strategy because shipping grant and CDF were people’s money so you have the right to benefit from this funding and vote for candidate that would best represent you and has a vision not only for you, the development of the constituency but a vision for our nation, Solomon Islands.
It is crucial for all citizens to understand that your member of Parliament is answerable to your constituency regardless of whether or not you vote for him/her. The duty and responsibility of the public position of Member of Parliament is where the voice of the constituency is being represented and is heard, to make laws to ensure there is peace and security environment where people’s human rights can be realised, where there is no impunity. A duty to duly represent his/her constituency without discrimination. Constituents have the right to demand accountability and transparency from their member of Parliament for it is their power that position of MP is exercising, for why would anyone who is already well-off come and beg the ordinary person to vote for them. We call on the government to do more awareness.
Constituents have all the right to demand that their MPs must provide acquittal reports detailing how the constituency CDF has been used. The CDF belongs to the people being represented and it is not the MPs personal funds as alluded to by some.
This huge amount of money if used wisely should have benefited the entire nation. The Constituency Development Fund (CDF), plus other funds in the name of Constituencies is more than adequate and if used as PCDF would have made a difference in the lives of our people.