The sentence handed down by the Magistrate Court against Ms. Selina Boso, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Rural Development, on the 25th September 2015 sends a strong message that information about the administration and distribution of Constituency Development Fund is a matter of public interest.
Ms.Boso received a sentence for 4 months imprisonment suspension for the offence of willfully failing to furnish information about CDF to the Ombudsman in her capacity as a Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development.
Transparency Solomon Islands view the sentencing of Ms. Boso as a call for greater transparency and accountability on the administration and distribution of public monies available under the CDF.
In sentencing, Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Kouhata said, “as a person who holds and has charge of information relating to administration and distribution of funds meant to assist the ordinary people of this nation, people expect more from you than anyone else to assist in an investigation which may lead to a future fair and equitable distribution of these public funds. You had failed the people on this.”
TSI welcomes the Chief Magistrate decision and sentence as an encouragement of accountability.
The sentence is an encouraging sign that accountability Institution such as the Ombudsman Office are activating authority provision mandate within their statutory to promote accountability and good governance in the country.
The court’s decision and sentence also serve to remind permanent secretaries of their official duties as accountable officers of public funds.
TSI welcome the court’s view that permanent secretaries have a legal obligation to assist the Ombudsman discharge his constitutional and statutory duties. Indeed the court decision reinforces the very obvious fact that permanent secretaries duties to the political government is subject to the overriding duty to assist the Ombudsman’s constitutional and statutory duties
Also this case highlights the urgent need for proper administration and management of CDF.
In this regard, TSI calls upon the current government to gazette the Constituency Development Funds Regulation.
The draft CDF Regulation spells out the management and administration part of the Constituency Development Fund Act 2013. When an Act of Parliament does not have a regulation that clearly spells out how public funds will be expended by MPs and their CDOs the chances of irregularities is high and may possibly lead to bad governance and misuse of CDF.
Thus, the Government must now ensure that the Constituency Development Fund Regulation must be gazette to create an accountable and transparent system for the management of these funds.
One of TSI’s roles is trying to inform leaders of the importance of personal integrity, accountability, honesty and transparency in what they do. We do not want our leaders to be locked behind bars. On the contrary we want to see them act in the best interests of our country. Sadly, some continue to ignore our calls.
We have past precedent where Members of Parliament were convicted and jailed when it came to the use and disbursement of CDF. This year a Permanent Secretary was sentence for 4 months imprisonment within the period of suspension.
Something needs to be done to address CDF otherwise this precedence will reset time in and again.
By Transparency Solomon Islands