For the first time ever, the Government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) has decided that all elected Councillors will receive Vt1,000,000 for development purposes in their constituencies.
The Constituency Allocation was first introduced in the last quarter of 2018. After the release of funds in the 4th Quarter of 2018, the Parliament considered the importance of maintaining the constituency allocation as development funding for all 99 elected councillors and further appropriate funding in 2019 budget.
Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat said it is important to note that Constituency Allocation were never appropriated in the past except Development allocation.
“The appropriation of these funds is a demonstration of the parliament’s desire to see elected councillors contributing to supporting development in their constituencies and importantly, support Area Councils where services are needed,” he said.
“It is equally important to also note that the Parliament expects that these Constituency Allowances are used strictly for development purposes and reporting on the use of the allocations is important to provide assurance to the Parliament for its continuity in release another quarter of funds.”
Hence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs developed a set of guidelines to assist the councillors with the use of funds. The Constituency Allocation Guidelines are being developed to guide the elected councillors on the best use of the allocation and the processes for accessing funds.
Further, these guidelines will provide useful information and data for reporting by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) to parliament on use of the funds and in turn, assures the parliament that public funds are being made to good use for development at different constituencies.
The Guideline commences with a key reference to the Public Financial and Economic Management Act (PFEM Act) which reminds all that constituency allocations are public money which are collected, received and held by the state, they are required to be managed responsibly and accounted for.
With directions on what an elected councillor needs to consider when applying for funds, the guideline provides a reminder to ensure that a report is to be provided on the use of the constituency allocation.
Written in three different contexts — English, French and Bislama, all elected councillors are reminded to consult the Secretary Generals and Town Clerks to provide guidance on the completion of forms including reporting on the use of funds.
“We expect a change in the communities, for the benefit of the people and our economy as a whole,” the minister said.
“We also expect communities to engage with their area councils which in turn encourages participation from each community member. These funds will support the ideas of community projects, drawn up by area councils and chiefs so they can contribute to the development of their own communities.”
Funds will be released to the provinces and municipalities every quarter and all Secretary Generals, Clerks and Accountants are responsible for the release of funds including supporting the elected councillors on the use of funds.
“As Minister responsible for the MoIA, I would like to remind all that this is the first time for a substantial amount of money to be assigned to elected councillors. Councillors are reminded to ensure that funds are used according to the guidelines and for the intended purposes requested for.
“These funds are for development purposes and elected councillors are encouraged to invest in projects at their constituencies as part of their contributions to implementing decentralisation at their level.
“Elected Councillors are also encouraged to use the funds for their priority projects at the Area Councils and Ward level thereby contributing to development at the Area or Ward level.
“Failure to use these public funds for the correct purposes can lead to Parliament ceasing the allocation in future budget appropriations.
“Finally, I wish to announce that all Councillor Allocation funds will be paid to all provinces and municipalities this week. LPOs have already been signed and will be deposited at the Ministry of Finance. I look forward to receiving and reporting updates to parliament on the use of the Constituency Allowance.”
It is the MoIA’s hope that correct use of the funds can result in more funds allocated by the Parliament in the future.