Speaking during the official opening of the Induction Training for new Members of Provincial Assembly (MPA) for Western Province at Gizo on 11th April 2023, Minister for the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) Hon. Rollen Seleso challenged the Western Legislative Leaders to maintain the excellent performances that have so far been achieved by former regimes in accessing development funding that is designed by the Government to change the living conditions of the people of Western Province. The three weeks training is currently underway and will end on the 27th of April 2023.
The Minister told the new MPAs that their predecessors had focused on meeting the Minimum Conditions (MCs) of the Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) by cooperating and working as a team with the Provincial Officers enabling them to produce the most desired results for the people of Western Province. “The clean record set by your predecessors must be maintained and improved. Your policy statements can only be implemented when there are resources to finance them. It will make a lot of sense to maximise your income from the capital development funds”, Seleso urged.
He added that since 2012 the Western Province has been receiving qualified audit report from OAG which is the second best. He, however, lamented the fact that the Province could have well been the first Province to achieve clean audit report had it not been for the successive Executive Governments decisions not to properly account for Western Provincial Investment Corporation (WPIC). He warned that the PGSP Joint Oversight Committee had approved Clean Audit Report as MC by 2024 and that the new executive now has the responsibility to ensure the continued qualification of Western Province.
“I therefore wish to reiterate and urge Western Provincial Executive to focus on attaining clean audit reports to be able to access development funding by complying with the WPG Financial Management Ordinance (FMO) and the Financial Instructions (FI)”, he said.
Western Province has been steadily leading the Provinces in terms of the PCDF project delivery. It is the only Province out of the Nine Provinces that has never been disqualified from the PCDF since the inception of the Provincial Governance Strengthening Programme (PGSP) in July 2008, some 13 years ago. Out of the 1,500 plus projects implemented by the Provinces, Western Province has delivered more than 381 solid projects at a cost of about $50.5 million creating 780 jobs for the youths in the construction industry. He referred to Gizo Primary and Secondary Schools classrooms throughout the Province as examples of outcomes that the children are directly benefitting from today.
The Minister stated that Western Province is fortunate to receive in its account $12.9m relating to 2022/23 capital development fund because of the disqualification of Five Provinces in the last PCDF assessment in 2022 that resulted in the funds redistribution to the qualifying provinces. Otherwise Western was going to get only $7.5m. For 2023/24, WPG is expected to receive about $7 million or more if the MCs are met.
He informed the MPAs that the PGSP is now expanding with multiple donors and SIG pouring in resources because of the way the project has been well-managed and supported by the Nine Provinces. The program which has been designed mainly for institutional strengthening of the Nine Provinces has indeed promoted accountability and transparency at Provincial level.
He stated that as a result of the progressive performances of the Provinces such as Western, and having been convinced of the modality and the progress made so far, the SIG is encouraging donors to use the PCDF modality to deliver development aid to the Nine Provinces. The SIG took a loan of about SBD50m, last year, as part of an agreement to access World Bank grants for the Integrated Economic Development and Community Resilience (IEDCR) for the Nine Provinces to invest in resilient economic infrastructures.
“Such is the level of confidence that the SIG has in the PCDF modality and we are happy that donors also recognize the accountability and transparent nature of the program and are ready to put more resources into it to support the Provinces”, Minister Seleso iterated.
Seleso strongly urged the new government to embrace the program and maximize development funding for the people of Western Province in the next couple of years since most of the development fundings shall be channelled through PCDF modality.
The training is being professionally facilitated and cover areas such as Members’ roles and responsibilities, the Financial Management Ordinances, Provincial Government Act 1997, Public Financial Management Act 2013, Public Expenditure Management systems, provincial Financial Instructions, Procurement Procedures and Processes, Revenue Mobilisations, PCDF processes and procedures, Public Accounts Committee, Participatory Planning and Budget Analysis, and detailed clarification on important legislative changes that have taken place in the last few years.
The aims of the training are to get the MPAs to; appreciate the Provincial Financial Management Ordinances and Financial Instructions, enhance management and reporting of public funds, understand PAC processes and procedures including how to read Provincial Budgets and Financial Statements for the purpose of PAC reporting and oversight with emphasis on inquiry Techniques, follow PCDF processes and procedures for improved understanding, explore revenue mobilisation techniques and how funds may be used in providing services in the Province.
The orientation is a detailed training and is conducted using case studies, hands on exercises and group works. All case studies and materials are extracted from the Provincial Regulations and Manuals. The LCC, Ombudsman and Auditor General’s Office, and the National Parliament are all part of the training capacitate the MPAs, the PAC and officials.
“I encourage you to focus on the training and read the materials being given to you to learn as much as you can so that you may participate meaningfully in the discussions. Whatever you learn from this training would be relevant to you in undertaking your future responsibilities as political leaders and senior administrators”, he advised.
The Minister took the chance to thank the SIG and the World Bank funded Integrated project for co-financing the orientation trainings in Gizo and Taro to help develop the capacities of the new MPAs and officers in the Two Provinces that had elections in December 2022.
Speaking earlier, Premier for Western Province Hon. Billy Veo (MPA) acknowledged the Ministry for the timely orientation and capacity building training citing that it is imperative for them to be fully versed with what is expected of them as per PGA 1997 Sections 19 and 26 which provide for Executive and Provincial functions, let alone the standing orders pertaining to dress cord, language and other minimum standards expected of them as MPAs.
Premier Veo stated that the trainings are very important in ensuring that MPAs know and understand not only their roles and responsibilities but the boundaries within which they should exercise their powers as MPAs within the administration set up of Western Provincial Government. He stated that whilst the MPAs appreciate and understand the gravity of the training it is regrettable that since their election in late 2022 and the formation of the Western Provincial Government in the first quarter of 2023, there has been contentions with the Ministry regarding accommodation and transport allowances during the transition period. The Premier however, stated that he is hopeful that the induction training would provide opportunity for them to discuss and seek clarifications directly from the Ministry.
Veo stated that the training is also a better platform for the MPAs to express opinions on the Minimum Conditions and Performance Measures of the PCDF which is perceived as having the characters of gradual exertion thus pressuring the Provinces.
“But perhaps most importantly we as MPAs need to understand and be versed with not only the PCDF processes and how it is being implemented, including its impact on Provincial Governments, and the Participatory Planning Processes, and the IEDCR World Bank funded project as well”, Veo stated.
The Premier added that it is understood that the MPAs’ direct involvement in the Ward Development Committees is limited on political-influence grounds, he however, still believes that there can be common grounds to explore. Premier Veo alluded to the current scenario where their colleague MPs have direct access to RCDF while the MPAs have none. He said he anticipates having more discussions on the matter during the training.
On local revenue mobilisation, Premier Veo stated that the Province needs to be guided on how to maximise and increase its local revenue collections to supplement the grants from the Ministry. This he said is expected to be discussed in the training as WDCs are primarily financed by the Province from its own local revenue.
The Premier urged his colleague MPAs to grasp the Induction Training as an opportunity to raise discussions and questions and to seek clarifications on any issues that they are not clear on. He thanked the Ministry for the training stating that he is hopeful that participants will learn lots of new information and skills that will benefit the Province in various ways in the years to come.
The three weeks training is funded by the MPGIS under its PGSP with funds from the World Bank’s IEDCR project and is attended by Heads of Divisions and other line Ministries in Western Province. Upon completion of the training in Gizo the Ministry facilitators and officials shall then travel to Taro in Choiseul Province on 28th April for another three weeks of Induction Training for the newly elected Members of the Provincial Assembly for Choiseul Province.