Should the Solomon Islands Government have its way today, each Members of Parliament (MPs) stands to receive about $6 million per year in public money.
At the heart of the Constituency Development Funds Bill 2013 is the power of the Members of Parliament to disburse public funds.
The Bill will give full legal recognition to the concept of the infamous RCDF. It will create 50 constituency development funds similar to the RCDF. Each MP will now receive and administer public funds for his constituency – totalling close to $6 million per annum per MP.
“This is of great concern to TSI, there are absolutely no control mechanisms built into the Bill,” said Ruth Liloqula, a former Secretary to Cabinet and currently the Chair of Transparency Solomon Islands.
“Also, the only two persons identified in the Bill who will manage the funds are the MP and his or her Constituency Development Officer (CDO). They will essentially decide how to spend the $6 million per year allocated to them.
“Historically, there is already a poor track record shown by some of our MPs on how they spend $400,000 allocated to them annually under the RCDF, what the Bill does is legitimise this and hand over $6 million annually in public money for them to manage,” said the TSI Chair.
The TSI Chair says that the Bill is essentially flawed in that it fails to address fundamental issues that would help guard against the abuse or misuse of the $6 million dollars that MPs stand to receive annually.
In recent public statements, two other entities fighting corruption the Forum Solomon Islands International and Anti-Corruption Network Solomon Islands also voiced similar concerns.
“There was little or no consultation in the drafting of the bill, there are no specific accountability mechanisms, and there is too much discretion given to the two individuals,” said the TSI Chair.
The TSI Chair says that they are encouraged with the support of some MPs, including Manasseh Sogavare, Mather Wale and Derek Sikua who are also members of the Bills and Legislation Committee.
“They have pledged their support and are prepared to oppose the Bill in its current form when it is presented before Parliament,” said the TSI Chair.
The Executive Officer of TSI, Daniel Fenua, says that a petition has been prepared by TSI, with the support of FSII and ANSI. It will be presented to Parliament today to coincide with consideration of the bill.
“We have the support of several MPs in Parliament, and they have agreed to present the petition before Parliament, we have received strong support from the general public as well,” said the TSI CEO.
Source: Press Release, Transparency Solomon Islands