Tackling the real evidence and perceived perceptions of Corruption in the Solomon Islands today

Tackling the real evidence and perceived perceptions of Corruption in the Solomon Islands today

Posted by : Frank Short Posted on : 24-Sep-2022
Tackling the real evidence and perceived perceptions of Corruption in the Solomon Islands today

Last Friday the Solomon Star newspaper carried a report and gave a breakdown in the report of $2.34 billion in grants from the Constituency Development Fund to the nation’s 50 Constituencies in the eight years to 2022, according to the latest figures on disbursements, it was mentioned.

The same report went on to add, and I quote.

“According to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Samson Viulu, this year alone each Constituency received $6.8 million, which include a $400, 000-share per MP from China.


“This year’s figure has raised total funding for the eight years to 2022 to $2.337 billion. This means that more than $46.7 million were ploughed into each of the 50 Constituencies in the last eight years.


“Members of Parliament received the funding on behalf of their Constituency. The funding is intended for micro economic projects in rural Constituencies. Despite the huge funding outlay, many constituencies are without basic necessities such as clinics.”

End of quote.

If the figures identified in the Solomon Star news story are correct then one is led to the obvious conclusion that something has gone amiss because it is no denying that “many constituencies are without basic necessities such as clinics.”

It was not too long ago that the Prime Minister gave similar news and lamented that he was concerned by the huge sums having been paid out in Constituency grants from the Constituency Development Fund for rural development but very little tangible results were evident.

The Prime Minister did not cite the word corruption in what he said about the huge payouts in CDF grants and the lack of developments he had expected to have been the outcome in rural developments, but one was not left with much doubt that corrupt dealings and practices had some bearing on the rural shortcomings.

Is the governance of CDF governance about to change?

Last week, we learned that overwhelming support was made known during the SICD Policy consultation facilitated by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) in Honiara for Renbel Province participants.

Representatives from the province who were part of the consultation comprised of Members of the Provincial Assembly, Chiefs, Community leaders, youths, and other professionals.

Quote.

Three ice-breaking questions as introduced by the consultation Team Leader and Principal Project Planning Officer Mr. George Balairamo inspired the discussions.
These questions include;

1. Do you have any knowledge about the governance set-up of CDFs?
2. What is your observation of the current CDF governance structure?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current CDF mechanism?

During discussion in the early part of the consultation process, some participants expressed that the SICD Policy is a way forward for the required change to the current CDF Act 2013.

We know that Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is necessary for rural development. But it is the accountability part of it that needs to be strengthened so that CDF can achieve its maximum purpose in the rural communities in the 50 constituencies,” one participant said.

Other representatives also shared the same sentiments expressing that CDF needs stringent regulations and a robust mechanism.

The Renbel Provincial Assembly Speaker Honourable Lester Hackle Saomasi also expressed that CDF is a catalyst for development in rural areas.

“There is hope in this new SICD Policy as we might anticipate some changes in the CDF structures and how the ministry and Government implement the funds in the rural areas.

“I believe CDF needs to be invested in our productive sector to help boost the economy in the rural areas and also the country’s economy at large.

“If we want to see more in-come generating activities and job opportunities available in our constituencies then it is time to propel this fund (invest) into the productive sector,” he added.

Senior Renbel MPA Honourable and Deputy Premier Lence Tango also made some very critical but constructive contributions during the consultation deliberation.

He expressed that Members of the Provincial Assemblies (MPAs) in the nine provinces should also be part of this CDF structure to address some of the development issues in the (our) constituencies.

MRD Deputy Secretary Corporate (DSC) Constance Wane thanked participants for their invaluable contributions and assured them that recommendations gathered from the consultation will really help MRD as it embarks on reforming constituency developments to guarantee rural people meaningfully participates in social and economic activities to improve their livelihoods.

Ms Wane also did a presentation on the Ministry’s Corporate Service overview and its Corporate Plan 2020-2023, Ministry’s mandate as well with its alignment to the National Development Strategy (NDS).

“MRD continues to collaborate with line ministries to advance the DCGA policies to advance development in our rural areas,” she said.

Rural Development Division (RDD) Director Milfred Delemani and MRD Financial Controller Timothy Paoka also did a presentation on the CDF implementations and its criteria opening the way for further discussion from the participants.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Rural Development Dr. Samson Viulu acknowledged the Renbel participants for their participation in the consultation process.

“Your invaluable and honest view will be taken into account and will be the basis and foundation of this new policy,” he said.

He also highlighted that the SICD Policy’s key goals are to support and provide a policy framework to review the 2013 CDF Act, and it will enhance and contribute towards empowering all Solomon Islanders to participate meaningfully in constituency development activities to improve their livelihoods.

“The new development policy will make more emphasis on the productive and resource sectors including essential services to address the issues and challenges faced daily by rural dwellers thereby activating an additional percentage of the productive population to contribute to the national revenue and consequently grow our local and national economy,” PS Viulu affirmed.

The SICD Policy shall focus on the following key thematic areas: socio-economic infrastructures, livelihoods income generating projects, essential services such as health, education and police- security, and downstream processing and value adding.

End of quote

Source: MRD Media

One would hope that the proposed SICD Policy will bring about more accountability and lead to the promises outlined – “key thematic areas: socio-economic infrastructures, livelihoods income generating projects, essential services such as health, education and police- security, and downstream processing and value adding.”

Corruption, and allegations of corruption has blighted the Solomon Islands for years and very much centered on the cash payments received by MP’s from the so called Rural Development Funds (RDF) and CDF grants.

To what extent will the proposed SICD bring about rural development outcomes remains to be seen and if it does what then about the work of the SIICAC that seems to be in limbo despite recent equipment support from the Embassy of Japan and the UNDP?

During the handover of the equipment, Mr. Tony Kabasi, Deputy Secretary from the Anticorruption Secretariat under the Office of the Prime Minister thanked the UNDP and Japan for their great support provided and was quoted as saying.

"What we witness here today is a result of a great partnership between Solomon Islands Government, the Government of Japan, and UNDP. The National Anti-Corruption Strategy and the National Development Strategy recognize that the key to growth and progress of the people of Solomon Islands lies in sustainable economic development and combating corruption is an inevitable part of this process," said Mr. Tony Kabasi.

Sharing the same opinions SIICAC Director General, Mr. John Kouni, highlighted how significant this support is to “maintain quality and continuous work of SIICAC. “

“SIICAC is a fairly young institution that needs the support of partners to fulfill its mission. UNDP, through its TAP project, assisted with the establishment of SIICAC and continues to support us with our Annual Work Plan as well as providing technical advisory support to the SIICAC personnel.”

“I, therefore, would like to express gratitude for supporting us from the very beginning and, when it is so much needed, assisting us with the IT equipment,” Mr. Kouni further noted.

The UNDP Resident Representative for the Pacific Office Mr. Levan Bouadze highlighted the significant support from the Transparency and Accountability project as well as other UNDP projects over the years as “essential and necessary for the execution of corruption prevention, investigation and prosecuting corruption and coordination and cooperating with other oversight and integrity agencies.”

“Supporting civil society, private sector and citizens engagement in accountability and integrity advocacy, is also a key feature of the Project’s intervention,” Mr. Bouadze said.

The handover was organized by the UNDP Transparency and Accountability for the People of Solomon Islands – The Project for Strengthening the Capacities to Combat Corruption (TAPSCCC). The project is implemented by UNDP Solomon Islands and has received financial support from the Governments of Solomon Islands and Japan.”

Fine, now the SIICAC has equipment to help its important work, but what has the Commission done so far. I raise the question personally, and not impertinently, but guess I am perhaps not alone in raising the question.

I suggested a few days ago, in a letter that I posted that the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong, under its new Director, is willing to assist fledgling anti-corruption bodies, such as the one in the Solomon Islands with all aspects of support. Now the SIICA has been given the equipment it needed to facilitate it’s functioning as an organization then perhaps the time could be opportune to ask for operational and technical assistance from the HK ICAC that has demonstrated its professionalism and capabilities in combating corruption since the early 80’s.

Today, reading the Solomon Times Online, I saw a report that the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi hailed the relations between China and Solomon Islands during a meeting on Tuesday with Jeremiah Manele, foreign minister of the Pacific island country.

The meeting was arranged on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr.Wang told Minister Manele that under the guidance of the heads of state of the two countries, fruitful outcomes have been yielded as a result of the all-round exchanges and cooperation between China and Solomon Islands over the past three years since the two countries established diplomatic relations, which has brought tangible benefits to the people of Solomon Islands.

At the conclusion of that meeting, the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Mr.Wang Yi hailed the relations between China and Solomon Islands during a meeting on Tuesday with Jeremiah Manele, foreign minister of the Pacific island country.

The meeting was arranged on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Also at the conclusion of that meeting both sides agreed to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in such areas as agriculture, policing, education and fishing, and promote projects such as the athletes’ village for the Pacific Games as well as Solomon Islands’ national hospital facilities.

Although “policing” was touched upon I do not think that included the fight against corruption in the Solomon Islands which is surprising given the fledgling state of the SIICAC and the perception as to how corruption is still viewed by many potential investors in the Solomon Islands

Surprising, too, because China (PRC) is now a significant and increasingly important development partner of the SI and significant also because one knows that in China, in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a strong crackdown on graft when he addressed the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption agency on January 14.

The talk accompanied the release of new party rules regulating promotion and corruption and a report that found China’s discipline inspection agencies had punished about 182,000 officials in 2013, roughly 13 percent more than in 2012.

Since President Xi announced a crackdown on corruption among government officials in 2012, multiple anti-graft and anti-extravagance measures have been passed by government agencies at the central and local levels. Those regulations against decadence ban the use of luxury cars, eliminate lavish gifts for government officials, and limit the scope of galas, official dinners, and special privileges that party cadres have long enjoyed.

The regulations have allowed the Xi administration to single out officials for punishment, starting at the local level and moving up the ranks of party hierarchy.

recent survey of Beijing-based junior civil servants found that nearly every interviewee believed the bans on gifts to be “very strict,” and said additional prohibitions affected their lives personally and financially.

Quoting Tim Donovan.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

www.solomonislandsinfocus.com

Recently Post
image

Quick Enquiry