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CDF Bill 2023 set for Parliament debate  

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The new Constituency Development Funds (CDF) Bill 2023 is set to go before the Committee of the Whole House (CWH) for debate when Parliament reconvenes next week.

This was after the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) successfully concluded a two-day hearing and thorough scrutiny into the bill in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) on Friday 24 and Monday 28 November 2023.

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The session which will take place in the main Parliament Chamber will allow all Members of Parliament (MPs) the opportunity to take part in the deliberation and to vote on the bill’s contents. Debate will involve speeches for, against or addressing the motion.

Permanent Secretary of MRD Dr Samson Viulu said the bill proposes a new improved legislative framework, one that mirrors the challenges and successes of the people of Solomon Islands over the decades and strives to achieve an inclusive, effective, and improved delivery mechanism of CDF.

He said the bill’s object is to develop a strong governance system in the administration, coordination, and management of CDF to ensure the system is transparent, non-corrupt, disciplined, and proactive in dealing with the people of Solomon Islands.

To achieve its objective, the Bill

  • establishes purposes and guiding principles for everybody under the (this) Act;

  • establishes strong administration of Constituency Development Funds;

  • establishes a constituency office for the day-to-day management of constituency development programs;

  • establishes a Constituency Development Committee to assist with the disbursement of funds;

  • establishes direct employees for the constituency offices;

  • establishes Constituency Development Growth Centres that will manage and coordinate the participation of the people in the rural areas towards decentralization;

  • establishes a constituency development plan that a constituency is required to provide for the disbursement of funds;

  • establishes an improved transparent process of constituency account;

  • establishes constituency assets to benefit the constituency but are to be disposed of accordingly;

  • establishes a proper utilization of the Constituency Development Funds that is equitable in a transparent and accountable manner;

  • establishes a procurement procedure to conduct the goods and services under the Constituency Development Fund in a prudent manner;

  • establishes annual reports of the operation of the Constituency Development Funds that are to be produced by the Constituency Development Officer;

  • establishes external and internal audit procedures to undertake audit matters of the Constituency Development Funds;

  • establishes offenses and penalties for any person, a Member of Parliament, or public officer, or a fund recipient that misappropriates any funds or assets from the Fund; and

  • establishes a strong implementation, supervision, and coordination of constituency projects.

Chair of BLC, Hon. John Maneiniaru, MP acknowledged PS Viulu and his senior management for appearing before the committee for the past two days and for the immense work done that has manifested in the Bill.

PS Viulu also recognized BLC for the opportunity to appear before the Bills Committee and also expressed gratitude to stakeholders, MRD staff and everyone for the support and feedbacks through the course of the formulation of the bill as he looks forward for the enactment of the bill by parliament.

It was a two-day of conscientious discussion as questions and responses, suggestions and comments were traded on the floor amongst the BLC and MRD officials as they make thorough enquiry into the bill.

The bill once enacted into an Act of Parliament will strengthen good governance; ensure improved and effective delivery mechanisms of the Constituency Development Funds; and promote equal and inclusive participation of all Solomon Islanders in development.

The CDF was initially established by the government of late Solomon Mamaloni in 1989 along with the Solomon Islands Communities and Provincial Special Assistance Fund (SICOPSA) purposely to assist MPs to respond in a timely manner to the urgent and often times emergency needs of their constituents.

Though SICOPSA was discontinued after its initial two years, the name changed to Rural Community Development Fund (RCDF) and to what we now know as CDF.

The initially idea then was to decentralize development resources and empower Members of Parliament (MPs) to address the specific needs and priorities of their constituencies.

Since then CDF has evolved into its current status to consume a third of the country’s annual development budget to promote local development, improve infrastructure, and enhance the overall quality of life in communities across the country.

Because of its widening scope and increasing allocation from the development budget, the changing dynamics of our development needs and the growing call for reform to the fund, DCGA identified the review of the CDF Act 2013, as one of its policy priorities.

The Ministry (MRD) in collaboration with its rural stakeholders took the initiative to implement this policy priority and worked hard to produce the Constituency Development Funds Bill 2023, that is now before Parliament.

Work on reforming CDF commenced in August last year by MRD through a nationwide series of stakeholder consultations, spanning the national, provincial, and rural/community levels to gather invaluable insights for the formulation of the first ever Solomon Islands Constituency Development (SICD) Policy 2023-2032, and drafting of instructions for the CDF Bill 2023.

Government through Cabinet approved the policy (SICD) in March this year which set a bedrock for the ministry to carry out review work on the CDF legislation 2023.

With the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) firm commitment to see improvement and strengthening of the governance of CDF programme for the benefit of the rural people, DCGA through cabinet without hesitation approved the New Bill on 5th October 2023 for submission to Parliament for deliberation.

The new bill, amongst other things, will confine Members of Parliament to their role as lawmakers, while providing an oversight to the implementation of the CDF program.

Under the new CDF Bill 2023, most of the responsibilities in the implementation of the CDF program has been delegated to public servants, constituency committees and the people.

CDF is a programme of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) and is implemented by the 50 constituencies in the country through the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) purposely to improve the social and economic livelihoods of all Solomon Islanders.

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