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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rural Constituency Development Fund to remain under the MPs control

Members of Parliament will continue to have the controlling authority over the use of Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) – at least for now.

Minister responsible for RCDF Japhet Waipora says his ministry is now in the process of raising the RCDF payments to each of the 50 constituencies.

RCDF was established to promote economic and social development in the 50 constituencies. Each constituency receives $400,000 a year, with MPs holding the controlling authority over its use. But the fund allocation and its use have been the subject of controversy in recent years. MPs were accused of abusing the fund instead of using it for the benefit of their constituents. This controversy has prompted the Sogavare Government to consider removing the controlling authority over RCDF from MPs.

According to the Government’s recently launched policy statement, it will introduce an administrative mechanism for the disbursement of the fund. It will also ensure that proper planning and accounting procedures are followed. How this will be done is not spelt out, nor how soon will the administrative mechanism put in place.
As such, Mr Waipora said the Government will continue to disburse the funds using current procedures.

Taiwan, which provides funding for RCDF, released the first tranche ($5 million) for 2006 last month. “We are now in the process of raising payments to each of the constituencies. “My ministry will ensure that there is a high degree of accountability on how the funds are disbursed and used. “For returning MPs, we won’t be raising payments to them unless they retire all receipts of how they spent their last tranche. “For new MPs, they will have to open new Constituency bank accounts with at least three signatories. “Until the Government’s new policy on RCDF is implement, this is the course of action we are taking now to ensure constituents benefit from the funds,” Mr Waipora told the Solomon Star yesterday. Taiwan provides $20 million a year in RCDF funding.



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