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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (May 3, 2002 - The Marshall Islands Journal)---Long-term political stability, popular participation in influencing legislation and freedom of speech all contributed to the Marshall Islands receiving a more positive legislative review than a number of its Pacific neighbors, according to UNDP consultant Jon Fraenkel, who drafted a 103-page legislative needs assessment for the Nitijela (legislature).

"Despite this enviable record of political stability and strengthening political life, the RMI government faces serious and widely acknowledged problems of accountability and transparency," the draft assessment reported.

Noting annual audits and government reports that listed poor accounting standards, misuse of funds and persistent non-reporting by government agencies, state-owned enterprises, local governments and ministries, the report said there is "an urgent need to strengthen the oversight and enforcement role of parliament, and in particular to revitalize the links between the Nitijela’s public accounts committee, the Auditor General, Attorney General and Finance Ministry."

Fraenkel highlighted the main points of the report Monday morning (April 29). He also commented on the fact that at last week’s Speakers Forum, President Note had pointed out the inability of the executive branch to bring about reform without legislature participation. "It’s very important to activate the Nitijela as a check and balance," Fraenkel said.

Among his recommendations, Fraenkel urged the Nitijela to:

After Fraenkel’s opening remarks, Senator Maynard Alfred asked what "kind of a monster are we dealing with? Was the report prepared on the basis of Nitijela needs or on the basis of standardizing our parliament with others in the region?"

UNDP’s Mose Saitala, who is the interim secretariat for the newly renamed speakers organization known as the "Forum of Presiding Officers in the Pacific," replied that the Marshalls assessment focused on basic parliamentary functions of the Nitijela while applying the test of "good governance" as defined by speakers and heads of state in the Pacific region.

Saitala said that the assessment was aimed to stimulate dialog among Nitijela members to come up with a consensus on whether or not there is the need for improvements.



MAJURO, Marshall Islands (May 3, 2002 - The Marshall Islands Journal)---Only nine Nitijela members, including President Kessai Note, turned out Monday (April 29) for the beginning of a two-day legislature consultation with the Nitijela to review ways to improve its operation. The 9 am start saw fewer than 30 percent of the Nitijela membership in attendance and even an hour and a half later that number had swelled to just 15 – two short of even the normal quorum needed for a regular session of Nitijela.

Despite the small turnout, Nitijela Speaker Litokwa Tomeing and President Note opened the proceedings at the Outrigger’s Melele Room with remarks that highlighted the importance of strengthening the operations of the Nitijela as an essential ingredient in developing "good governance" throughout RMI government operations.

Tomeing said Monday that the purpose of the two-day consultation with Nitijela members is to look at ways to improve the operation of the Nitijela, and followed on a needs assessment that was conducted last month with the support of the United Nations Development Program.

It’s like "school for us," President Note told the group. It provided an opportunity to "update each other about our work," he added. Note pointed out that questions being addressed include looking at whether the Nitijela is meeting its constitutional requirements, and possible improvements that can be made to the internal operations of the Nitijela – involving such issues as the work of committee chairs, staff and services for Nitijela members – that would allow for adequate oversight of the government.

Nitijela members present for the opening of the session at 9 am included President Note and Speaker Tomeing, Ministers Nidel Lorak and Alvin Jacklick, and Senators Maynard Alfred, Jiba Kabua, Ruben Zackhras, Helkena Anni and Kaiboke Kauba. Members who showed up later in the morning included: Ministers Tadashi Lometo and John Silk, and Senators Abacca Anjain-Maddison, Norman Matthew, Sato Maier and Kunio Lemari.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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