VIEWPOINT: They know but they just don’t care

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: The second highest CDF allocation

TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) concerned to see the again increase of the Constituency Development Fund to $6.8 million. 

This is the second highest CDF allocation for the Constituencies through their Members of Parliament (MPs).

To allocate this amount of money for the Constituencies at a time when the country is going through an economic crisis and health crisis is but very irresponsible of the MPs, regardless of which side of the house they are in.

And to allocate such an amount to go through this failed and very corrupt scheme at a time when the country needs to address the health crisis by way of doing something about the dilapidated state of health and medical infrastructures is beyond understanding, common sense and is not a sign of good and strong leadership that the Minister of Finance and Treasury is being supported for by the Leader of the Opposition.

Transparency Solomon Islands agrees with Harry Kuma who said, “if Solomon Islands is to grow and develop into a society that is economically vibrant, sustainable and prosperous then we must ensure there is political and economic stability and strong ethical leadership”.

The allocation or commitment of $330 million for CDF is most certainly not a sign of strong ethical political leadership nor will it bring about a society that is economically vibrant, sustainable, and prosperous.  This is especially so when our debt stands at $1.5billion as government borrows.

Did the Executive Government borrow so as to increase each constituency’s allocation? The Constituency Development Fund Scheme is the most corrupt funding scheme there is. 

It corrupts elections, it corrupts public officials, it corrupt people, it corrupts government systems, it hijacks the constitutionally assigned roles of the provincial governments and the Ministries. 

For all these millions nothing much happens for the majority of Solomon Islanders. 

They are crying out for the repair of their hospital [Choiseul Taro Hospital, Wagina Clinic etc.] decent school infrastructures, water supply, sanitation and the list goes on but their representatives in parliament who make decisions on their behalf are not listening.

Instead, they continue to pour funds through a failed and very corrupt CDF Scheme.

It is not strong political ethical leadership that Malaita Provinces PCDF (Provincial Capacity Development Fund) is cut and CDF is increased.

To recap, from year 2000 to 2018 a total amount of $54,300,000.00 was channeled through each Member of Parliament for each Constituency in the budget.  

In the 9th and 10th Parliament an amount of $45,800,000.00 was the actual paid out under the CDF budget to each member of parliament for their Constituencies.

This is an injustice and violations of the human rights of the people whose power they exercise.

TSI in its outreach program empowering citizens with key and critical knowledge about their political, legal, and civil rights agrees with a Guadalcanal Chief when he made this comment following a heated argument with another chief and TSI quotes “Yes what you said is true and indeed we the supporters of the Member of Parliament receive the CDF, but the projects we receive is nowhere near the amounts allocated to this constituency.”

CDF has failed to bring about any of the intended outcomes.

Why not pour this fund through the PCDF Scheme a very successful scheme where tangible results can be seen throughout the constituencies?

The provincial governments are the ones that are showing strong ethical political leadership and listening to their people. 

For example, in Choiseul Province, the Ward Grants is no longer handled by the Provincial Member but by the ward committees elected by the ward who then under the watchful eye of their provincial member, the Ministry of Provincial Government & Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) working together successfully complete the projects and account for the funds.

Most prefer the decision-making of the implementation of the CDF to go through this similar scheme where the CDF is divided equally among the wards within the constituency.

For this amount the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) must put in place administration and management framework to hold members of parliament accountable for how they use this money in the constituency.

As per the 2013 CDF Act that to date has not come into operation to date, constituency people’s participation in Constituency Development Plan must be a must for the $6.8million to ensure the $6.8 million intended for each constituency will reflect the value for money.

As the country enters another fiscal year, with nearly $4 billion budget currently before parliament for its passage, it is interesting to note that the CDF allocation to be paid to the Members of Parliament (MPs) remain unaffected amid this economic recession as a result of the pandemic.

More than $330 million is committed in the National Budget 2021/2022 for CDF. This fund is channeled towards the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) who in turn will issue payments to each of the 50 MPs.

It would be better and impactful if this huge amount of money is allocated to the PCDF through MPGIS or the Ward Grant through the provincial government, a funding mechanism that has and is making a big difference in the lives of people in the rural areas.

The Minister for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) Honorable Rolland Seleso speech in parliament revealed that PCDF has been hugely cut to give way for CDF.

The government knew very well how PCDF brought about major facelift in the infrastructure development in the rural areas and provincial townships, but it prioritizes CDF than PCDF.

Given the history of CDF accounted mostly for consumable goods, TSI supports the view of the people it meets in its face to face awareness that it is high time CDF is closely monitored and assessed on performance-based, to ascertain if the constituencies are getting the value for public money in the name of their constituency.

TSI in its recent visit last month (March) to the rural areas of South Choiseul and part of North West Choiseul Constituencies.

It is an injustice to the tax payers of these constituencies to eyewitness the dilapidated and very poor state of clinic at Wagina and lack of support for communities that struggles to build their own social cohesion infrastructures.

The building that used to be the clinic at Wagina has been left idle for some years now and relocate to a run-down classroom abandoned by the school because of it was no longer safe for children.

How can such a facility then be safe for the sick and the nurse? Poor infrastructures for health and education were obvious everywhere in the rural communities, let alone the resources needed to keep the clinics and schools operational.

To the people it does not make sense that with the millions channeled through their MP there is no improvement to their services.

TSI hopes that the $6.8 million allocated for each constituency will be spent on improving poor health services in the rural areas.

Had the MPs put the CDF money into the proper mechanism to assist in health, education and other sectors in the constituency definitely nurses and patients, teachers, children, and students would not have to put their lives in a nearly-collapse building when they are sick.

The population of Solomon Islands is increasing according to the recent census; therefore, we must plan ahead for social infrastructures to handle the pressure of our rapidly growing population.

TSI commends Hon Silas Vagara for his recent move to channel CDF through the Provincial Government under ward grant mechanism.

We hope other MPs will do the same. In Choiseul, the people said they are finally seeing the impact of the ward grants under the current arrangement so why not trial it out. TSI commends People’s Republic of China too for locking its contribution to CDF to water supply and sanitation. 

It is hoped that these would be proper water supply facilities. Provision of tanks will result in communities not benefiting other than the supporters of the sitting member of parliament. Transparency Solomon Islands intends to monitor the implementation of this component of the CDF for these are desperately needed in the constituencies. The amount TSI understands to be contributed by China is $1.8 million per constituency.

All members of Parliament know that PCDF and Ward Grants are well structured, tested, monitored, and have proved to be the most effective and productive means of disbursing public funds to deliver projects and achieved the desired outcome.

Sadly, the voices of the people MPs represent have not fallen on deaf ears.  They hear them, they know what needs to be done, but they choose not to do anything about it other than prioritize their own interest first and if there is any crumb left their constituency might get it.

Former Prime Minister Rick Hou as the Governor of the Central Bank was the most vocal about how corrupt this scheme is. Disappointingly it is business as usual when he became a Member of Parliament.