Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


John Roughan: From Law Maker to Project Funder!

From Law Maker to Project Funder!

By John Roughan
18 July 2005

Solomon Mamaloni hurt this country many times and in many ways but one of his costliest errors was to introduce the Constituency Development Fund . . . currently called the Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF). From its first days in 1993, parliamentarians were handed over $100,000 supposedly for the needs of the people in a constituency. Over the years, however, as the fund increased to $400,000 its major purpose of bringing development to people of the nation turned into a slush fund for everything and anything.

The worst thing about the fund is not that it is abused, misused and causes serious social friction. Much more seriously it has changed the nature of politics in the Solomons! It turned elected members from governing the nation to dispensers of funds. Our elected leaders, in the process, lost the understanding of their work. Basically the fund focused parliamentarians attention away from their primary role as law makers to fill their time up as dispenser of funds for projects, school fees, ship fares, medical expenses, traditional feasts, etc. etc. etc.

It is sad to see and hear about so many Solomon Islanders hanging around their members' home, waiting for the handout, help in financial difficulty, hearing the good word on a submitted project, etc. The typical MP's life is difficult enough trying to care for his immediate family than have more often than not, a dozen others from the constituency waiting at his home for a handout.

Much of today's criticism about the RCDF centres on the misuse of funds. But more importantly, many parliamentarians have lost their understanding that law making is their primary work. That's the very reason why they have been voted into parliament. They are expected to study carefully proposed new legislation, to critical review national direction trends. to think about alternative ways of making the nation hum, to work out ways to better direct the country. Their primary job is not to dispense money as if they were walking ATMs . . . Automatic Teller Machines.

Unfortunately, so much of the typical member's attention, energy and work patterns is used up in working out, dispensing of and checking the RCDF. This kind of work would be better given over to an elected (not selected by the member) group of people who truly reflect different groups, cultures, languages, sex and age of a constituency. The member must not be forced to administer the $400,000 but give the fund over to an elected group of responsible people who truly reflect the make-up of those living in a constituency.

Of course this group's work would be closely monitored and audited, not by the member (who will have his hands filled with law making) but a local reputable accounts firm. RCDF monies would be dispensed by group consensus vote which would allocate funds for truly development purposes. Boat's fare, medical prescription, school fee, traditional feast, donation, etc. do not qualify as developmental work but charity.

Late in 1993, when Christopher Abe was Minister of Finance, he proposed in parliament to scrap the CDF since already even at that time it was distracting MPs from their primary duty to serve the nation as law makers not project supervisors. SIDT ran a survey asking more than a thousand people whether they agreed with the idea of doing away with the CDF or not. Overwhelmingly, something like 91% of those interviewed, said "No!", don't do away with the fund but do not allow the member to administer the fund.

Unfortunately, Honourable Abe accepted the first part of the survey--to keep the fund going--but never mentioned in Parliament that the vast majority of people did not want members to administer the fund. It probably would have made little difference to parliament at that time what the people wanted, however. They were and still are not in the mood to lose control over $400,000. For many, this money is the only fund available to buy their way back into the Big House on the Hill.

The RCDF continues to be an important sign of the corruption cancer driving our electoral politics. Make no mistake about it! Members and voters alike are fond of, no, love, the idea of $400,000 floating around with little check on how it is used. But know well, also, what has been and continues to be the high cost to the nation. This $20 million-dollar yearly RCDF grant could finally be a real development tool. Or it could continue to distract members from their primary role as law makers and to feed people's unrealistic expectation that there really is such a thing as a 'free lunch'!


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news