Monday, 31 August 2009 11:45 AM

Rural CDF

It's always interesting to read opinions and concerns on the RCDF issue.

The RCDF came into existence in the early 1990's during one of Late Solomon Mamaloni's Prime Ministerships. That time it was coined the CDF (Constituency Development Fund.

The aim of that scheme is to help constituencies with direct funding of projects to improve their standards of living. Taiwan is the sole financier of the scheme since its inception.

Since its creation, there was no legislation in place to guide its usage and to prosecute any one who misuse it.

There was and there is still no strong guidelines or requirements today to effectively administer and manage the fund to ensure it meets its intended purpose.

The weaknesses mentioned above are among some of the loopholes that risk the RCDF of being misused or failing to improve the livelihood or standard of living of contstituents.

Besides, the fund has also increased dependency every year among many constituents on MPs to meet numerouse demands (some promised while others created as time changes).

A few MPs have created RDCF Committees to administer the scheme. Something similar to village committees looking after church or community funds or projects. However, the final approval rests entirely on an MP based on advice from the Committee.

While this approach is effective in some constituencies, it does not work well in others.

Some MPs have used RCDF to strengthen their grip on political power by injecting funds in many ways. Some on social service facilities and school fees. Some on water supply, church buidlings and donations to marriages and funerals.

The last two are among the most powerful in some societies. Funerals and marriages are special cultural events that gathers many people and an MPs donation is more meaningful and will always impact on mentalities during an election.

Government has set up the Ministry of Rural Development and part of its role is to loosely coordinate the RCDF without having any powers to listen to complaints on RCDF misuse. The only change that came into force lately is an unlegislated requirement for MPs to retire their RCDF spending in a past year before being entitled to receive the next tranch.

I think one way to avoid misusing the RCDF is to put in place a law that guides its usage and allows for punishment of MPs who misuse it. That legislation should also cover records management and strenghtening its accountability and transparency requirements just like the normal government financial instructions.

Tagio trimas!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of George Kalo and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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