The Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) today clarifies issues raised in a newspapers publication of 4th November 2021.
A statement from MPGIS noted that a three weeks training team successfully completed its Public Expenditure Management (PEM) and Financial Management Workshop on the 4th of November 2021 (Thursday last week) and was officially closed by the Premier of Guadalcanal Province.
Despite the Executive boycott of the two days allocated to them, the Senior Officers of Guadalcanal Province (GP) continued and completed the rest of the training modules designed for the program.
The MPGIS has submitted a formal response to the issues raised by the Executive to the Premier of GPG in a more detailed and is confident that the response would help them (MPAs) understand Provincial Financial Management and particularly the Executive role in administering Provincial Funds.
The training which was formally closed by the GP Premier, enabled the officers to complete the GP Financial Statements of 2019/20 that awaits re-submission to the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the reconstruction of GP Annual Work Plan and Budget 2021/22 based on proper logical framework, the PCDF Operations Manual and issues relating to GP forthcoming assessments, recurrent and capital budgeting, the quarterly report production techniques and the validation of the roles and responsibilities of the GP executive.
“Just for clarity, the timing of the GP training was confirmed by the Finance Minister of GP in his July 2021 meeting with the MPGIS before even a formal letter was sent to PS GP. The Finance Minister wanted the training to be conducted after the GP Second Appointed Day otherwise GP training would have been conducted before Malaita. But the timing cannot more perfect than this considering the upcoming PCDF Assessment in January and the submission of audit report in December. It is rather awkward to note that the Finance Minister contradicts himself on this matter, in his media statement last week,” the Statement said.
The MPGIS perfectly understands the frustration of the GP Executive Members over their entitlements, but it still felt that the capacity building of the GP is a mandatory requirement of the MPGIS as the supervising Ministry of the Nine Provinces. Despite the reduced budget of 2021, due to the pandemic, the MPGIS prioritized Makira, Malaita, and Guadalcanal Provinces to receive the trainings on the revised IPSAS Standard and Planning and Budgeting to prepare the larger provinces for the forthcoming PCDF assessment and the submission of their Financial Statements due in December 2021.
With the Cabinet approval of SBD60m for PCDF in 2022 (as promised by the Prime Minister during his Budget Launch), and the chances of potential Donor Funding, if GP is well prepared and improves its performance, it may earn more than SDB12m in PCDF 2022 to develop its economic infrastructure next year.
The Ministry is very much concerned with the various Executive Decisions designed to override the PGA section 25 and the FMO. How the Executive makes decision in disbursing Provincial Funds has direct impact on the Assessment as more than 40% of the Indicators and the Minimum Conditions would be met depending on Executive Decisions made during budget implementation. The Ministry worry that if the Executive is not well-briefed on the new changes in the Assessment, they may continue to make mistakes that would affect the people of Guadalcanal Province. The MPGIS would have expected GP Executive to attend the training and then call a discussion with the Minister over their grievances for clarity, but unfortunately, they missed that opportunity and instead used the media to submit their complaints. The Ministry expect the GP Executive to be more concerned with improving its performance to earn more than SBD70 million in the next five years to develop its infrastructure from SIG funding.
It must be noted that because of the Capacity Development of GP over the past years, the Province has been qualifying and over the years it has delivered 69 solid projects at a cost of over SBD33.7M through PCDF. The MPGIS is determined to support GP to continue on this path by advising the Executive to avoid decisions that would negatively impact on project delivery that is benefiting the entire Province. “It is important that we should work together to abide by the provisions of PAMSAD issued by PEC until they are reviewed” the MPGIS statement said.
Given its location and the advantages it has, GP should be the first Province to receive lean audit report, but after more than 30 years we are still trying to convince the Executive that this is the best way forward. The recent training outcomes has, however, given us the hope that financial accountability will improve if the Executive continues to cooperate and support the administration.
The policy on participatory planning that allows the Ward Development Committees (WDC) to participate in the planning process and to receive funds in their account for micro projects has also kicked-off. In the approved 2021/22 budget of GP, the 21 WDCs of GP shall deliver 142 approved projects. Each ward shall receive about SBD142, 348. In five years, GP WDCs shall be delivering over 620 projects paid from the ward development grants
This is a good policy to ensure community participation and service delivery where the communities themselves decide their own priorities. The MPGIS assumes that every Executive in GP would appreciate policies that empower their own communities to deliver micro projects.
The implementation of this policy has attracted the interest of some constituencies and the donor communities to channel funds to the communities through WDCs. The GP Executive has been advised to adhere to any initiative that empowers our own communities in GP. Our initial monitoring of the WDCs indicate overwhelming community approval for channeling the funds through and build their capacities in the process.
ENTITLEMENTS: All entitlements approved by the PEC for Members of GP Executive and the Assembly have so far been paid out to them by the MPGIS, see below:
It could be seen from the above that all allowances determined by the PEC are being duly paid by the Ministry. But what the Ministry did not encourage the GP Executive to apply is the October 19 2020 Executive Determination to pay themselves Monthly Transport Allowance of SBD2,000 each per month from the Provincial Funds even though some Executive Members are provided with GP official vehicles already, SBD4,800 per Executive Member being accommodation even though Five of them live in GP staff houses and receiving house rent from MPGIS and another transport allowance of SBD2,400 per Executive Member for meetings.
These allowances are not determined by the PEC and therefore the GP Executive should not put pressure on the administration to pay them. The Ministry made a submission to PEC already to increase MPA salaries and allowances, but it happened just before the pandemic. The Chairman of PEC also clarified the MPA Allowance issues during the Premiers Meeting in the month of September 2021. The MPGIS would have thought that the Executive was well briefed by the Premier who attended the sessions.
The MPGIS advised the Executive to be patient with the SIG and PEC as the country is still recovering from the impact of COVID-19. If they have any further matters on entitlements, they are advised that they channel it to PEC and the AG.
Autonomous Province: On the issue of autonomous provinces, the MPGIS has no jurisdiction over this. This is a Constitutional issue beyond the mandate of MPGIS. Issues to do with immediate autonomous Provincial Governments must be directed to the right institutions for appropriate responses and sharing of information.
RCDF: On the RCDF, the MPGIS advises the GP Executive to discuss with the right Ministries and political leaders since issues to do with RCDF are not within the MPGIS mandate. The MPGIS is responsible for the PGA administration and ensuring accountability of Provincial Funds, but not matters to deal with RCDF.
THE 10 ORDINANCES: 10 Ordinances passed by the GP Assembly were sent to the Ministry for the Minister’s assenting without them being vetted by the Attorney General (AG) Chambers. And yet the Premier was issued with two letters written by the AG’s Office in 2019 and 2020 that no Provincial Government should draft legal instruments and pass them unless they are either drafted by the AG’s Office or someone identified and supervised by the AG’s Office Draftspersons. The full vetting of these are still required and the MPGIS held two meetings with the Premier advising him to liaise with the AG’s Office Drafts Persons.
CONCLUSION: The Minister of MPGIS, in his formal opening of the workshop in October, assured the Premier and his Executive that he is prepared to provide continued technical support to GP to improve its performance in order to access more funds for its capital projects. The MPGIS and its technical team shall continue to provide any support required by GP to come up to speed with high performing Provinces. In this way the Province may be well positioned for clean audit report like Central, Isabel or Choiseul and Western. In doing this the Ministry need full cooperation from the GPG Executive. GPG should take advantage of its proximity to MPGIS HQ to access technical support at any time. It is also unfortunate that a boycott occurred during a low key training session. This incident was not relevant, since all MPAs already knows about the position of the MPGIS and SIG on those matters and advised that such media stunts would not be beneficial at all. The MPGIS, however, assured the GPG that it will continue to work on and pursue matters within its jurisdiction and mandate, which are beneficial to the good people of Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands.