Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 1, 2010) - Good to hear Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua finally coming out yesterday to explain his caretaker government’s handling of the Solomon Islands Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF).

The arrangement between Taiwan and the Government to have the rural development funds – RCDF, Millennium Fund, and Micro Project – paid out in five tranches of SB$10 million [US$1.2 million]a year is perfectly in order.

What is disturbing and unacceptable is the government’s directive to the Taiwan Embassy this year for the first two tranches to be used entirely for RCDF.

In doing that, the government had effectively exhausted the SB$20 million [US$2.4 million] RCDF allocation for this year.

Under the understanding that Dr. Sikua referred to yesterday between the government and the Taiwanese Embassy in 2008, each time a tranche is released, it has to be distributed for RCDF, Millennium Fund and the Micro Project.

Not any of these three funds should get the whole payment.

When the government instructed the Taiwanese Embassy to have the first two tranches solely for RCDF, the public has the right to question it.

Why is it only this year the first two tranches have to be used solely for RCDF?

Remember, this is election year. By doing what it did, the Sikua government’s action becomes highly suspicious.

Now he’s telling us the SB$20 million [US$2.4 million] RCDF for this year will be channeled to the Ministry of Rural Development where it will be administered.

That’s news to Solomon Islanders.

Because what we know all along is RCDF goes straight into individual MP’s bank accounts after Taiwan releases the funds to the government.

Only allocations for Millennium Fund and Micro Project are usually channeled to the Ministry of Rural Development for administration and pay-out to constituency projects.

If the caretaker Sikua government has now decided to do the same with RCDF, then good on them. Because rural development funds should never be paid into individual MP’s accounts.

Rather, they should be administered by a government agency or ministry.

Let’s hope the Sikua government’s decision to move the SB$20 million [US$2.4 million] RCDF to the Ministry of Rural Development was not just a reaction to the intense public anger displayed this week.

Let’s hope it’s a genuine policy directive that will see the RCDF slowly but surely moving away from the control of MPs for the greater good and benefit of the public.

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