THE controversial Constituency Development Fund (CDF) needs proper coordination to deliver needed services to rural communities in Solomon Islands, according to Tony Hiriasia, a PhD research candidate at the University of the South Pacific (USP).
Hiriasia was part of the Solomon Islands 41st Independence Anniversary Symposium held at USP in Suva, Fiji on Friday July 5.
The symposium was organised by the Solomon Islands Solomon Islands Students Association (SISA), Solomon Islands Research Network (SIRN), and Solomon Island High Commission office in Suva.
Hiriasia of USP’s School of Government, Development and International Affairs (SGDIA) argues that the CDF undermines the Legislative responsibilities of Members of Parliament (MPs) and the independence and legitimacy of the Legislature.
“The fund also inserts a conflict of interest in Government dealings and operations and contributes to failure of legislature in providing the necessary checks and balances.”
Some of the problems he highlighted included accountability and transparency issues, unclear fiscal assignments, duplication of responsibilities and poor coordination of resources between the different tiers of governments leading to wastage.
According to Hiriasia, MPs decide on the distribution and use of the CDF and there is no coordination between them and Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) and other line Ministries that are tasked with similar responsibilities.
“There needs to be co-sharing of responsibilities, some responsibilities go to the provincial government while some responsibilities should be retained by the central government.
“When MPs decide on the projects, they tend to politicize the projects to the outcome they like. They are less interested in their legislative responsibilities and involve more in managing the CDF.
“There is a need for proper coordination and proper study to identify priority areas to address CDF.
“Constituency development offices do not have the capacity to perform these some of the responsibilities they have taken on.”
Hiriasia said Constituency Development Offices (CDOs) lack capacity to fulfil some of the new fiscal responsibilities, the appointment of constituency development officers was based on political grounds rather than on merit which also contributes to poor performance and outcomes.
He pointed out that Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) is more successful than CDF because it seeks people consent at the community level – people have the opportunity to say what they want rather than the CDOs or MPs dictating the types of constituency projects.
So many times these projects are misaligned with community priorities.
“Most of the CDF projects are individual projects unlike PCDF projects which target a larger part of the community and are service-based. In fact, in Malaita alone there are 107 PCDF successful projects, 76 of them are in the health and education sector,” he said.
He added that some constituencies have taken steps to provide shipping services and road building and maintenance.
However, there is always the question of ownership and sustainability.
Hiriasia also highlighted that power brokers and constituency officers have a big influence over the distribution of CDF projects especially at the community level.
Because they work closely with the people they were often blamed for the failure of the CDF distribution and always divert attention away from MPs.
The Solomon Islands 41st Independence Anniversary Symposium was graced by the presence of the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji William Soaki who gave a keynote address and the USP Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia who also addressed participants.
The symposium revolved around papers presented by Solomon Islands researchers on national issues and challenges.
These included but not limited to education, climate change and technology, governance, public service reforms, rural development, environment and conservation, theology and development models that are important to Solomon Islands.
SIRN member and USP lecturer, Dr Gordon Nanau said the symposium offers a training and information sharing space for undergraduates, postgraduates and seasoned researchers to showcase and share their projects, research findings, share information and where possible suggest solutions to challenges facing the country.
“The link between research and good policy cannot be overemphasized and something that the country still needs to work on.
“Having the symposium as an additional event to independence anniversary activities is important as it adds the academic component of our students and staff work to cultural, sports and religious events organised to celebrate the independence anniversary of our country,”
“For this particular symposium, the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji, William Soaki and his staff supported it from the start.
“The organising committee is very much appreciative of this support from the Solomon Islands High Commission office and the Solomon Islands Students Association executive,” Nanau said.
A communique highlighting outcomes, recommendations and resolutions from the symposium is currently being prepared by a Communiqué team and will be presented to relevant authorities soon.
By JARED KOLI
USP Suva, Fiji