Transparency Solomon Islands has recommended that the Constituency Development Fund Bill be returned to drafters claiming it was poorly drafted and TSI further recommended the Ministry of Rural Development be disbanded.
In its submissions to the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC), TSI recommends that the CDF Bill be returned to the drafters as it was poorly drafted and has come up with structures that will further perpetuate the control that Members of Parliament will have on the funds- therefore no difference to the current situation.
“Given the failure of this scheme to perform, it is recommended that the Ministry of Rural Development be disbanded, and the CDF be handled by the Ministry of Provincial Government that has a system that is working, transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. This will allow for the synchronization of the Provincial Government Development Plan, Ward Development Plans and Constituency Development Plans. The PCDF is a scheme that works,” TSI said.
It further argues that MPGS has its structures right down to the constituencies and ward level.
It adds that the structure proposed is too expensive, as the Government will be looking at recruiting and employing more than 600 plus officers.
In an earlier statement, the 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.
But in its submission, TSI raised several issues saying over the last 23 years Solomon Islands has seen the amount of money available under the Constituency Development Fund [CDF] Funding Scheme Budget grow from $5 million SBD to $350 million, the highest being in 2016 ($7million/constituency).
It further states that from year 2000 to 2023 $3.985 billion of the public funds was channelled through Members of Parliament. This works out at $79.7million per constituency adding, this money is, paid directly to Members of Parliament.
“They administer the funds and there has been no mechanism for members of the public to access information about how this money is being spent. Constituencies are denied access its report that Constituency CDF Retirement Reports of their MPs, therefore no way of verifying that people listed as “recipients” did receive CDF.
“To date, there is very little to nothing much to show for the millions in more than the 40 Constituencies that we have visited. Even here in the capital people do not know how much money is involved and how this money was spent,” TSI said.
It said that the CDF Scheme undermines the constitutionally established Institutions’ roles and functions, the Provincial Government and the entire machinery of Government of the Independent democratic State of Solomon Islands and its Constitution.
TSI said it is of the view that the CDF Scheme shakes the very foundation of democracy in Solomon Islands and under the Scheme, Members of Parliament have hijacked the constitutional roles and functions of the Provincial Government and the Government Administration rendering these institutions not functioning as they should.
“CDF in its use, abuse and misuse is a breeding ground for abuse and misuse of entrusted power by those in power,” TSI wrote it its submission.
These are some of the concerns TSI raised amongst the 16 points they raised to the BLC.
Based on that, TSI said the Bill should address these fundamental issues to bring back trust in Government, but it has not done so.
“Instead, we have a Bill that has many inconsistencies and contradictions and continues to perpetuate these and not solve it. The Bill goes beyond the CDF funding scheme. Through the Bill the Ministry of Rural Development has put itself at the apex of the whole of the Machinery of the Government as stipulated in our Constitution,” he said.
TSI said the Bill failed to address the fundamental higher issues associated with CDF, nor improve the mechanisms to ensure the performance of the CDF is monitored, transparent, and accountable as it continues to perpetuate these issues and legalise corrupt practice.