MP Questions Millions In Environmental Funds For Samoa

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Toeolesulusulu claims money not spent on ‘tangible outcomes’

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 24, 2013) – Of about WST$45 million [US$19.1 million] granted to Samoa by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for environmental projects, very little of it has been spent on "tangible outcomes."

In fact, according to Member of Parliament, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, who is also Tautua Samoa Party’s Environment Spokesperson, about "WST$2 million [US$847,386]" is spent on projects with "tangible outputs for the country."

Asked to explain the use of the word "tangible," the Member of Parliament said he is referring to projects that actually have an impact on members of the community such as conservation areas and marine reserves.

The claim was made during an interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday.

Toeolesulusulu says while the Government has done well to secure the funding from GEF, the reality is that "the majority of that money for Samoa has gone to consultancy and reports."

Says he: "I broke it down – two million at most is actually being used for having any tangible output for the country."

So how is it that all these aid dollars are not translating into tangible, sustainable projects going towards Samoa’s long term survival as an island state?

According to Toeolesulusulu, there are a number of reasons why this funding is not benefiting Samoa.

"In terms of GEF funding what is good, (which is one of the concerns that I have had and have raised), is that there is a lot of funding especially in climate change, the MNRE (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment) has not had the capacity to implement (the projects)," he says.

"It is good to talk about all this funding that they are getting but you look at some of the climate change money that they have had for the last three, four years (there are) long delays because they can’t recruit the right people to run these projects.

"A lot of the projects are behind in terms of implementation because they don’t have the human resources available to do it. It is good to have that but they need the infrastructure to develop to be able to implement it.

"On a national level what has been funded, especially for Climate Change a lot of funding has come through climate change, it’s taking too long to implement because the technical personnel are not available in the country.

"So rather than try to go out there and try to grab as much money they should be building the infrastructure internally to try finish one project and move onto the next.

"Rather than bring this slew of money in over the next five years that is going to come back and bite them if they can’t implement it."

Toeolesulusulu says another issue that dilutes the effectiveness of such projects is that too much money is spent on reports.

"Some of the funding from GEF…WST$40 million [US$16.9 million] has been given to Samoa if you look of it a lot of it has been on planning grounds," he said.

"If you look at all the MNRE there is more than five, close to ten if not more planning documents but very, very little tangible implementation of projects.

"(A lot of the money) is going to planning and this is my criticism of GEF.

"It is nice to talk about all this big money that is coming in but when you look at the actual impacts of this WST$40 million you don’t have an impact - a lot of it is on consultancy fees and research rather than action.

"Instead of using the funds to implement they put a lot of their funding into writing new plans without harmonising or synthesising what other organisations are funding and then using those to implement some of the projects."

According to Toeolesulusulu, when a body applies for a grant GEF has four different windows for funding allocation.

"Between GEF 1 and GEF 5 (the Facility’s Trust Fund cycle) a lot of the projects have been through…the first window (which is) is enabling activity and is to help countries develop plans.

"That is straight funding to help develop national biodiversity plans, national climate change communication plans, a national adaptation plan, all these different plans.

"Samoa, like all the region has produced all these plans - sustainable land management, climate change adaptation.

"And each of these enabling activities or national plans were between US$200,000, US$300,000, US$400,000 to produce.

"And now they are not being (used)…there is not good synergy in terms of using those plans."

Under the plans that are implemented, Samoa’s national priorities are often pushed to the background to make way for regional priorities, said Toeolesulusulu.

What this means is because a lot of projects are implemented by regional and international bodies such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the UNDP, which look at the region as a whole instead of the needs of individual countries.

"From Samoa’s stand point…they should be fighting more to get funding from GEF to implement their national priorities," he said.

"They come up with new concepts but they are not using that, that is one thing, that is they are not matching the funding that is available to the priorities of the country.

"They should be looking at GEF 6 saying these are our priorities we have identified, these are what we need funding for, rather than coming up with new concepts to try and fit (the proposals to the funding)."

The example Toeolesulusulu used to illustrate this was Samoa’s National Biodiversity Strategy & Action Plan.

"The only projects that have been implemented through that is the invasive species which is a lower level priority for Samoa," he said.

"But because it was a regional and global project done on invasive species they pulled that together with other countries.

"Two years ago (they funded) a regional project on these forest protected areas - it is different from what Samoa wanted in its plan.

"That is now designed by what the GEF and the people that designed it at the regional level figured it should be."

He said since 1992, when GEF was established, only one project has been implemented in Samoa on a national level.

"The only nationally driven and executed projects are Aleipata and Safata Marine Conservation Areas," says Toeolesulusulu.

"Funding finished in 2002 I think or 2003, (and) that has basically all collapsed as well so by having nationally driven projects there is a better link to sustainability.

"And (now) they are all talking about pilot projects, it could be done better basically."

It was not possible to immediately obtain a comment from the MNRE yesterday.

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