Speaking during the official opening of the three-week induction training for 16 Members of the Choiseul Provincial Assembly, and Senior Provincial Officials, at Taro on 3 May 2023, Minister for the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) Hon. Rollen Seleso (MP) congratulated the recently elected Members of Choiseul Provincial Assembly on the occasion of their election to the provincial assembly. The Minister challenged the members to maintain the good track records set by their predecessors.
“Hon. Premier, I urge you and your MPA colleagues to improve on the track records set by your predecessors, and this can only be possible if you are all working closely with the Provincial Administration to enforce compliance at all levels”, Minister Seleso urged.
Choiseul Province, was for more than eight years, the leading Province in Solomon Islands taking the lead in all Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) Performance Assessments from 2008/9 to 2016/17. After going down in performance for few years, the Province has started to bounce back and scoring 71 points in the last PCDF Assessment, a feat the Minister says, if maintained, would continue to qualify the Province in the PCDF Annual Performance Assessment as critical projects that impact the lives of the people in Choiseul are delivered.
He commended Choiseul Province for having had Qualified Audit Opinion in 2012/13 before any other Province, and for making decision to repeal the ordinance of its loss-making business arm, the Lauru Shipping. He, however, lamented the accountability issues of the later that had for many years prevented Choiseul from acquiring Clean Audit Reports. The Minister, however, stated that he is confident that the repeal of the ordinance would pave the way for the accountability process to take its course through the Provincial Treasury System which he described as a right step in the right direction which may soon eventually enable Choiseul to join Central and Isabel in obtaining Clean Audit Report.
Choiseul Province has so far delivered more than 187 solid PCDF projects at a cost of about SBD35 million which created over 900 jobs for the youths in the construction industry since 2008/9. Minister Seleso cited the SBD1.5 million Vanga Moli Foot Bridge that have eased the communication and linkages between various communities since its completion, and the investment of SBD950,000 on the new Maternity Ward in Taro Hospital as milestone projects that are impacting on the lives of the people especially the women population.
Seleso assured the new MPAs that the PCDF is growing as more donors are coming forward to provide funding because of the level of confidence they have on the Performance-Based Grant system. On the 18th of April 2023, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister announced a sum of NZ $15 million grant for PCDF Local Climate Adaptive Living (LoCAL) facility commencing this year through United Nations Capital Development Fund and the European Union confirming further funding of €6 million for PCDF Climate Change also through UNCDF. This is in addition to the €8 million confirmed last year through UNDP. He added that the South Pacific Community has just concluded the consultation for Green Climate Funding (GCF) to the tune of USD15 million for the PGSP using the PCDF mechanism also through UNCDF. These grants, he stressed, shall complement the National Government allocation of SBD30 million for PCDF that was approved by the National Government for 2023.
The message from the Minister shows external funding mobilised by the MPGIS with PGSP technical support amounts to SBD260,000,000 (from external donors). These projects may commence in later part of 2023 and run for the next seven years. This funding is all grants aimed at complementing the efforts of the SIG in resourcing the nine provinces to invest in resilient economic infrastructure. It could be recalled that the MPGIS and MECDM are currently implementing the IEDCR project which is to the tune of SBD187,000, about SBD83 millions of which shall be financing resilient infrastructures in the nine provinces through PCDF.
The Minister congratulated the Ministry and the PGSP Project Officers for their relentless efforts in reaching out to donor communities to secure funding for the Nine Provinces at a time when the National Government is trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic. He assured the Premier, MPAs and all other participants that the MPGIS with the support of its projects shall continue to provide the necessary capacity building to support the delivery of the much-needed resilient infrastructure to boost economic growth and create employment opportunities in the rural economy. Example of such capacity building is the training of MPAs and Heads of Divisions that is currently being undertaken by MPGIS/PGSP at Taro.
“I must emphasize that this kind of training is only available to Members of the Provincial Assembly once in every four years because of the cost involved and the limitations of time. The facilitators will therefore do their best to help you clarify issues as the training proceeds”, Seleso stressed.
The three weeks training cover critical areas that are most relevant to the responsibilities of MPAs such as: 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 the detailed clarification of important legislative changes that have taken place in the last few years.
Accountability institutions such as Leadership Code Commission, Ombudsman, and Auditor General’s Office are going to make presentations including National Parliament who are going to train Provincial Public Accounts Committees (PPAC) on the composition, processes and procedures of the PPAC and the Executive. The training is hands on with lots of group works and exercises designed to cover the content of the manuals delivered and the functions and roles of the MPAs. A good understanding from the training shall enhance the knowledge of the relevant areas of the regulations, processes and procedures that are critical to compliance enforcement. Hon. Seleso urged all participants to focus on the training, read the materials being given to them, learn as much as they can, and participate meaningfully in the discussions.
Seleso seized the official opening programme of the training as an opportunity to formally handover the Integrated Economic Development and Community Resilient funded Virtual Conferencing (zoom) Facility for use by the Provincial Administration. The facility of highest quality with 65-inch TV screen was provided mainly to reduce the operational cost of running the Province. Some of the issues, he said, can be sorted out using the VC instead of travelling all the way to Honiara. Western, Guadalcanal and Makira Ulawa have had their VC delivered. All other remaining Provinces are also receiving the zoom equipment with the IEDCR ICT Specialist setting them up and conducting some hours of training for Provincial officers. The Minister strongly urged the Province to take great of the equipment and maintain it well since they are mostly delicate. .
Minster Seleso was accorded the highest official reception by Choiseul Province where a Guard of Honour was staged by the Taro Royal Police Constabulary in which he appreciatingly and ceremoniously inspected. The Province received the Minister and his delegation of facilitators well with welcomes and floral garlands.
Speaking earlier, Premier for Choiseul Province, Hon. Tongoua Tabe, Assembly Member for Wagina, Ward 1, welcomed the MPGIS Minister and his delegation thanking them for the training that they have been looking forward to since their election on 14 December 2022. Premier Tongoua stated that the training is not only timely but would greatly help them in the efficient and correct management of the affairs of Choiseul Provincial Government in terms of the delivery of the much-needed services to the people down in the rural areas in accordance with policies, ordinances and procedures and processes as far as compliance is concerned.
Tongoua stated that given Choiseul Province’s limited revenue generating base, his government has taken the stern policy of upholding balance-budget principle in formulating and controlling the approved Provincial Budget, and entrenching the running of surplus budgets, a practice he claimed Choiseul has been achieving in the last two years. He emphasised that he wishes to see this maintained and sustained into the future.
He stated that as an Educationist, he values the training, likewise, he expects the same from the elected leaders of Choiseul Province and the Provincial Administration Staff, and to have a positive mindset so as to optimise the intended outcomes expected of them by the Ministry. Additionally, he expects the training to help the MPAs gain extra knowledge so that they can contribute to the law-making process of the Assembly constructively, and to better appreciate and participate effectively in their Assembly oversight mandatory roles.
He lamented that whilst the conceptualisation of the training may have been conceived in such a way that it is consistent with the current DCGA Policy, the same approach could have been done on his government policies as it is a two-way process. Nonetheless, he stated that what is important is for the elected leaders of Choiseul Province to be capacitated. “We need the training to help us make better representations of the needs and aspirations of the people we represent”, he stated.
The Premier stated that it is his hope that the significance of the legislature of the Committee System and the role of committees such as the Provincial Public Accounts Committee and other selected committees would be discussed during the training including the oversight role of the Provincial Assembly. He stated that in spite of whatever opinions they may express on the training, since most of them are new comers to the Assembly, they are certain they would be effectively assisted to fully perform the fundamental roles expected of them by people and the country.
He firmly urged the Choiseul Provincial Assembly and every Head of Divisions to make full use of the three weeks training opportunity given by the Ministry for them to openly interact, raise issues and seek clarifications on areas and matters that they are not clear on whether they are Provincial or Ministerial related. The Premier thanked the Minister and his officials again, wishing them well, and assuring them of the Lauru hospitality. END###