The roles and responsibilities of government Ministries must be respected by the NCRA government.
The Government has indicated this week that it wants to take $33.4 million SBD from the Ministry of Agriculture budget and channel it through Members of Parliament , a move that has been widely criticized.
After constant failures to submit their acquittals for these and other constituency development funds, MPs have shown that they are unable or unwilling to spend this money in an open and accountable way.
This amount was allocated for the Cocoa and Coconut Industry Support Programs currently under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and TSI believes that this money should remain under the control of the Ministry.
Only 4 MPs submitted their acquittals for the Cocoa and Coconut Industry Programs for 2012. They are Namson Tran, Danny Phillip, Milner Tozaka and Connelly Sandakabatu.
These MPs should be acknowledged for doing the right thing. But what of their parliamentary colleagues?
Yesterday it was reported that former PM, Snyder Rini turned down this funding because the industries that it relates to are not active in his constituency.
Is he the only MP who should have declined this money? Are there cocoa and coconut industry projects in every other constituency?
The new move will take responsibility away from the Ministry and give MPs more discretion as they will directly responsible for the disbursement of the funds.
It has also been reported that the Minister of Agriculture has stood up to his government colleagues on this issue.
Unfortunately, we understand the Cabinet ignored the Minister and went ahead with this plan despite his concerns.
Any MP that has not submitted their acquittals in full should not receive a single cent from the Ministry until they have complied with the reporting requirements.
The system of submitting acquittals is in place to ensure that this money will be used for its intended purpose, benefiting rural people.
The problem is that under the current partnership approach, MPs are still able to access this money despite having failed to submit their acquittals.
National leaders must do the right thing and uphold their integrity. They must fix this broken system to ensure accountability in the spending of public money.
Also, as we have said many times before, TSI has serious concerns about this method of providing funds to constituencies.
MPs are legislators not project managers. They should focus on their legislative roles and let Ministries and government employees execute and implement program activities.
Channeling funds through individual MPs takes up much of their valuable time and allows room for corruption to thrive.
Already we have seen some MPs forfeit their seats or be imprisoned for misusing public funds. This shows that the law will catch up with those who continue to build their wealth on these public funds.
There is also an issue of development planning at stake here.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has clearly defined what it proposed to do with that $33.4 million in its strategic plan.
For example, in the cocoa industry program, the Ministry has sent officers to provinces to talk with local farmers to form cocoa farmer association.
In the coconut industry, it is planning to buy coconut mills in key strategic locations with established oil producers, as well as sending some local coconut oil producers to Bangkok for training on value adding.
Do the MPs have the level of technical knowledge and the network of staff required to implement these detailed, strategic plans?.
Transparency Solomon Islands believes that the Ministry is in a better position to deliver agricultural support programs than the MPs and their CDOs.
Given that the ministry has 180 officers around the country and have a plan in place, it seems likely that they would be best placed to ensure that this money is used to benefit our local farmers.
We want to know what you think about the this issue. Call TSI on 28319, email firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via our facebook page www.facebook.com/TransparencySI
To report corruption, bribery or abuse of public office, call ALAC on 20391 or drop by our office on first floor of the Stephen and Sons building in China Town, Honiara.
MPs Ask For More
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