LONE SOLOMONS LAWMAKER REPORTS ON SPENDING

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By Ofani Eremae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 9) - Outgoing Central Kwara’ae Member of Parliament Fred Fono has released a landmark report in Solomon Islands outlining how he spent his people’s money during the last four years.

The report covers how he expended SB$1.4 million [US$200,900] of the Rural Constituency Development Fund, SB$200,000 [US$28,700] of Republic of China funding assistance and SB$250,000 [US$35,800] given to each Member of Parliament under Parliamentary Entitlement Regulations.

"I don’t want my constituents to cast any doubts on how I spent their money. That is why I produced this report, which highlights how the funds are spent and on what project. This is people’s money and I believe they have the right to know how it is expended," Mr. Fono told the Solomon Star yesterday.

Mr. Fono is the only Member of Parliament known to have produced reports detailing how he expended Rural Constituency Development Funds and other forms of funding.

This was his second report. The first was produced in 2001 after his first term in Parliament.

Mr. Fono, currently caretaker Minister for National Planning, said he is seeking a third term in the April 5 elections.

Nearly 4,000 people were present when Fono launched the Central Kwara’ae Constituency Report at the Malaita Provincial capital of Auki on Monday.

[PIR editor’s note: Malaita is northeast of Guadalcanal where the national capital is situated.]

Fono said during the last four years, each Member of Parliament received a total of SB$1.85 million [US$265,475], to be used for development in their respective constituencies. The biggest chunk – SB$1.4 million [US$200,900] – comes in the form of the Rural Constituency Development Fund.

In 2002, Members of Parliament received a total of SB$200,000 [US$28,700] in Rural Constituency Development Funds but the amount was later increased to SB$400,000 [US$57,400] a year in the last three years – increasing Rural Constituency Development Funds to SB$1.4 million [US$200,900] per year.

Apart from Rural Constituency Development Fund, Member of Parliaments also received a total of SB$250,000 [US$35,800] under Parliamentary Entitlement Regulations for their four-year term.

Fono said the parliamentary entitlement assistance is normally disbursed at the Members of Parliament’s discretion.

"Still, this is public funds and Members of Parliament should be accountable for it. A lot of Members of Parliament never tell their constituents about this fund. I feel that this is public funds that is why I included it in my report," he said.

And last year, the Republic of China introduced the Micro Grassroots Project scheme where SB$200,000 [US$28,700] would be given to each constituency in a year.

Fono’s report also shows which communities benefited from this new scheme.

He said the intention of producing the report is two-fold.

Firstly, it is to inform appropriate Government authorities and development partners on the use of the Rural Constituency Development Fund and donor funding given through him during his tenure as Member of Parliament.

Second, it is to inform his constituents on how their Rural Constituency Development Fund was used and what additional donor funding was received and for what projects funded in the constituency.

"I am doing this as a challenge to other Members of Parliament, especially the incoming ones. Members of Parliament need to know that the Rural Constituency Development Fund and other funds they received on behalf of their constituents are public funds. These are monies belonging to the people. We need to show them how their money was spent and which project. This is important so that they don’t criticize us Members of Parliament," Fono said.

He said copies of his report are being distributed to every community in the constituency, relevant government departments, and donor countries.

Among projects funded under the Central Kwara’ae Rural Constituency Development Fund are school and church buildings, income generating projects, roads, youth and women’s groups, school fees and individual contributions.

March 10, 2006

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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