The Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) has tabled the new Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Bill 2023 in Parliament yesterday (Monday 13 November 2023), guaranteeing a much more improved governance and delivery mechanisms of the CDF programme.
Honourable Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare who is supervising Minister for the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) when presenting the bill said having the new bill reached Parliament for its first and second reading, marks a milestone achievement for rural development in Solomon Islands particularly for our rural people, MRD staff and Members of Parliament who are direct overseers of the CDF programme.
The new CDF Bill 2023 once enacted will strengthen good governance; ensure improved and effective delivery mechanisms of the Constituency Development Funds; and promote equal and inclusive participation of all Solomon Islanders in development.
However, PM Sogavare said the ministry (MRD) came across a lot of challenges and push backs to reach this far and acknowledged that the ministry learned a great deal along the way.
“Through these experiences, we are more than determined and fully committed to implement and operationalize the CDF Bill as a way forward for building this nation.
“DCGA hopes that with the passing of the CDF Bill 2023, we will turn a new page on good governance by promoting transparency and accountability in the administration of the CDF Program.
“In doing so, our rural people in particular, will further benefit from the CDF to improve their socio-economic livelihood,” the Prime Minister highlighted.
At the same time PM Sogavare appealed to all Members of Parliament (MPs) to fully support the Bill as it has the potential to become one of many economic tools to grow our economy and spread development right across the nation.
“Colleagues, by supporting this Bill, we are providing assurance to our people that members of Parliament will no longer have direct influence on the day to day disbursement of the funds and overall implementation of the CDF program.”
The CDF was initially established by the government of late Solomon Mamaloni in 1989 along with the Solomon Islands Communities and Provincial Special Assistance Fund (SICOPSA) purposely to assist MPs to respond in a timely manner to the urgent and often times emergency needs of their constituents.
Though SICOPSA was discontinued after its initial two years, the name changed to Rural Community Development Fund (RCDF) and to what we now know as CDF.
“The initially idea then was to decentralize development resources and empower Members of Parliament (MPs) to address the specific needs and priorities of their constituencies.
“Since then CDF has evolved into its current status to consume a third of the country’s annual development budget to promote local development, improve infrastructure, and enhance the overall quality of life in communities across the country.
“Because of its widening scope and increasing allocation from the development budget, the changing dynamics of our development needs and the growing call for reform to the fund, DCGA identified the review of the CDF Act 2013, as one of its policy priorities.
“The Ministry (MRD) in collaboration with its rural stakeholders took the initiative to implement this policy priority and worked hard to produce the Constituency Development Funds Bill 2023, that is now before Parliament.”
PM Sogavare said that though the CDF Act 2013 was a landmark piece of legislation that formalized the operation of the CDF and provided a legal framework for allocating and utilising development funds to each constituency over the years, it is not compatible with our constitution nor is it aligned to the Public Financial Management Act 2013.
“It also has no regulations to it so despite the many obvious gaps that we see in the program, it was very difficult to enforce the Act.
“There was also low priority on the economic sectors because the current CDF Act of 2013 does not have such provisions that oblige constituencies to emphasize more on economic sectors over social needs. Therefore, addressing these concerns has been the top priority of the DCGA since it came into power in 2019 which instructed the MRD to review the CDF Act 2013 and formulate a (this) comprehensive new CDF Bill 2023,”PM Sogavare stressed.
Work on reforming CDF commenced in August last year by MRD through a nationwide series of stakeholder consultations, spanning the national, provincial, and rural/community levels to gather invaluable insights for the formulation of the first ever Solomon Islands Constituency Development (SICD) Policy 2023-2032, and drafting of instructions for the CDF Bill 2023.
Government through Cabinet approved the policy (SICD) in March this year which set a bedrock for the ministry to carry out review work on the CDF legislation 2023.
With the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) firm commitment to see improvement and strengthening of the governance of CDF programme for the benefit of the people, DCGA through cabinet without a second thought approved the New Bill on 5th October 2023 for submission to Parliament for deliberation.
The CDF Bill once passed in Parliament will improve the CDF delivery mechanisms as well as pave the way for more positive changes in our rural communities to ensure all rural Solomon Islanders become meaningfully participated in development activities to improve their social and economic livelihood.
The new bill, amongst other things, will confine Members of Parliament to their role as lawmakers, while providing an oversight to the implementation of the CDF program.
Under the new CDF Bill 2023, most of the responsibilities in the implementation of the CDF program has been delegated to public servants, constituency committees and the people.
The CDF bill is expected to be debated from next week onwards.
The bill once enacted into law shall come into force (commencement) on the 1st day of January 2024.
CDF is a programme of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) and is implemented by the 50 constituencies in the country through the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) purposely to improve the social and economic livelihoods of all Solomon Islanders.
MRD’s vision is to ensure all rural Solomon Islanders become meaningfully participated in development activities to improve their social and economic livelihood.
– MRD Press