The Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) has commenced its first inquiry into the new Constituency Development Funds (CDF) Bill 2023 in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) today (Friday 24 November 2023).
This was after Honourable Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare tabled the Bill in Parliament for its first and second reading in Parliament on November 13.
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.
Setting the scene for the inquiry, Permanent Secretary of MRD Dr Samson Viulu conducted a presentation, highlighting the pros and cons of the CDF, its challenges, overview of the new bill and major changes to it, and the way forward to improve the CDF programme for the benefits of constituents and rural people of Solomon Islands especially through rural development affairs.
It’s a rigorous first session as questions and responses, suggestions and comments were exchanged on the floor amongst the BLC and MRD officials as they make thorough analysis into the bill that once enacted into an act will improve the governance of CDF towards improving rural development and livelihood of rural communities.
Accompanied the MRD team were Government Legislation Drafting officers from the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Chair of BLC, Hon. John Maneiniaru, MP during the session, acknowledged MRD for appearing before the committee and for the immense work done that has manifested in the Bill.
Members of the MRD Senior Management Team that appeared before BLC today include the Permanent Secretary Dr Samson Viulu, Deputy Secretary Technical Hugo Hebala, Director Rural Development of MRD Milfred Delemani, Human Resource Manager Olive Maezama, Financial Controller Timothy Paoka and Principal Legal Officer Diana Alasia.
Meanwhile, when tabling the Bill before Parliament on November 13, PM Sogavare 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.
“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.
“We are more than determined and fully committed to implement and operationalize the CDF Bill as a way forward for building this nation,”PM Sogavare said at that time.
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 BLC/Parliament.
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.
Inquiry into the CDF Bill 2023 continues next week.
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