Friday, 11 April 2014 8:17 AM

Flood Relief or CDF?

The flooding that has affected Honiara, Guadalcanal Province is a tragedy on a scale that has not been seen in this country for some time. Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) writes about the decision to release part of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in the wake of the flooding that devastated Honiara and parts of Guadalcanal.

At TSI, our hearts go out to all of those who have lost loved ones, have friends and relatives that are still unaccounted for, or have lost their homes or property.
This week almost 10,000 people are staying in evacuation centres and the government, donors and NGOs are trying to make sure that these people’s most basic needs are being met.

TSI wants to acknowledge the MPs have responded to this crisis, in some cases much more quickly and more comprehensively than NGOs or the Government.
We are often critical of MPs, but those who have been providing much needed food and water to their constituents in the camps have shown what it means to be a leader.

However we, as a community, must remain vigilant.

We know from the Auditor Generals report into the 2007 Tsunami Relief Funds that even in a National emergency, there are those that would try to exploit the generosity of others for their own benefit.

Much has been said and written this week about the NCRA Government’s decision to release $300,000 to each MP through the CDF schemes.

In Parliament on Monday the Prime Minister said of the CDF release “What we have released is basically the first tranche of what is called the constituency development funds for 2014 to enable Members meet the needs of their people who are faced with the situation here in town. Relief assistance is a matter for the National Disaster Council. I therefore want the public not to unnecessarily use such information to create states of confusion here in town as we go through this difficult time.”

A statement that seems to only have added to the confusion.

Here are some questions that TSI thinks the PM should answer.

Are the constituents of each MP equally affected? Surely the MPs who have had whole communities affected need this money more. Why is the money being advanced to every MP?

Which of the CDF streams is this advance drawn from? Each CDF stream has specific purposes and it is hard to see which fund would be the most appropriate in this situation.

It is widely understood that ROC is withholding funding until it receives 2013 acquittals from MPs. Is the government simply trying to use the flood crisis as an excuse to get around the accountability measure that ROC is quite rightly enforcing?
TSI notes that none of the members present in Parliament asked the PM any of these questions.

Part of being a quality leader means refusing or challenging decisions that do not seem right.

TSI believes that if this money is truly intended for flood relief, it should be channeled through the NDMO who have responsibility for overall coordination of the disaster recovery.

When money from donors and aid agencies begins to flow, and we hope that it will soon, SIG must revisit the 2007 Auditor General’s report into the Tsunami Relief Funds.

It highlighted widespread mismanagement, misappropriation and in some cases outright theft of money donated to help those in need.

The government has refused to table this report in Parliament despite being required to do so under the constitution.

We would remind the Government of the old saying that ‘those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.’

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We want to know what you think. Call TSI on 28319, send an email to media@transparencysi.org, visit our website www.transparencysi.org, find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/TransparencySI or drop by our office in the Hyundai Mall.

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