"Its time to get rid of the political patronage system of using RCDF funds"

Let me join the right-minded Solomon Islanders who are calling for the relinquishing of the public funds from politicians for public benefits, other than for private political gains. I agreed with others on the lack of policies by the emerging political parties to relinquish the RCDF, Micro Project Fund, Millennium Funds and etc. May I further elaborate on this public discourse in relation to political patronage system?

Patronage amongst other meanings is a financial aid given to an organization or individual for showing support. In the world of politics, political patronage is the use of state resources to reward individuals for their electoral support. In the Solomon Islands, we have the patronage system of politicians using RCDF, Micro Project Fund, Millennium Funds and etc, to gain support for the election or re-election; a practice, which is considered corruption.

First, let's understand why are politicians turned fund managers and ATM machines? The attachment of the politicians with the public funds is an obvious one. Research found that there is a strong linkage between resources allocation and competitive election. In countries like Solomon Islands where election is quiet competitive, political patronage is a viable and cost-effective way to win election. Candidates and political parties uses patronage system not only to win, but to get rid of those that are not willing to use the system - the basic reason why most women candidates are pushed out during the national elections duly because they either dislike the system or not part of the system.

Second, the political patronage is so entrenched in our societies that sometimes is difficult to get rid. The system is so deep-rooted that it is becoming a stronghold for voters, local leaders, candidates and political parties. It's even worse with the strong cultural, ethnic or religious identities that we have, which generates clusters of "promissors" and "demanders". A voter chooses to directly rely upon elected member for support of resources based on expectations he or she has created with a leader. Reciprocally, the leader makes sure that resources are diverted from the patronage funds to support the course for political power. And often times, the calls for relinquishment of public funds for appropriate disbursement runs afoul deaf ears, predominantly due to the fact that, first, politicians are the makers of the laws of which they enacted to suit their appetite. Secondly, they make decisions over the distributions of the funds, and thirdly, relinquishing the funds means getting rid of the political hegemony that is well benefitting for them.

Third, frankly, the political patronage is an inefficient system of developing a nation. Although the political process and involvement of these funds sometimes seem democratic and legitimate, its resulting effect is however damaging for the public and the nation - Rather than supplying the meager resources for much larger public benefits, the resources only ended with smaller private benefits - resulting in less development or no development at all. The undeniable stagnant development in the country is a direct consequence of such unwise political decisions. It was truly unwise decision by the politicians to become the managers of the fund and legislatures at the same time. These two roles cannot go hand-in-hand; which clearly results in conflict of interests, and creating a recipe for corruption that totally undermines the Cabinet's executive role to perform its primary functions.

The questions we need to ask ourselves therefore are, how can we address the problem and what are the redresses for such corrupt practices?

There are many ways to address the problem. To mention the few, the first and the foremost, is to get rid of the patronage system of using public funds and revert the funds to be directly managed by Government entities as they were used to be channeled. Secondly, citizens can potentially discipline politicians through either voice or through existing checks and balance mechanisms i.e., to continuously voice out and strongly against such practices, or consider bringing litigations against the politicians or the government, for violating the trust and fiduciary responsibilities entrusted in them. Thirdly, make these funds to be subjected to the same procedures of scrutiny such as procurement process and auditing of public funds that are disbursable by the Government.

Frustrating it may seem however, there is a beacon of hope for wise political decision to rectify such system. Timely, as one sees, strong political will and reform by the newly elected politicians is feasible and doable - Let me finally, congratulate any leading political party that is willing to sacrifice and manifest its policy to take the recourse to champion the route for better development of our nation Solomon Islands.
May God Bless Solomon Islands

Mr. Divine Waiti