Maintaining checks and balances

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday 14th Febuary 2012

HAGEN MP and Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma gave the Jika Pangka clansmen of Hagen Central, Western Highlands, a K530,000 cheque at Kopgom village last Saturday.
He told them K30,000 of that was to be used to install water supply, K200,000 was for roads and bridges and K300,000 was reimbursement for a power supply project which had been initiated by the villagers.
Duma presented the money after he was invited to the launching of the Kopgom Community Development Agency Inc, and also see for himself the self-help power project undertaken by the villagers.
He commended the people for taking an initiative to help themselves to improve their quality of life.
We commend the people too.
Duma also allocated another K3 million for the power projects such as the Kelua-Maip, Rui Bridge-Kogepeng, Gumanch-Panga and Kenta-Ruki.
The reimbursement for the initiative of the people is excellent. More public funds must be channeled in this manner not only in Hagen Central but also in all other electorates.
People must show initiative and innovativeness. They must show seriousness that they want to improve the quality of their lives.
Initiative should be a common denominator for assistance and for further increased help, not truck loads of beautifully written submissions which land on leaders’ desks and should the writers be lucky, the money received never finds its way to intended projects.
Within a short time, Duma must return to Kopgom village and ask for physical evidence in roads and bridges totaling K200,000 and of water supply installed for K30,000.
At the same time, his people of Hagen Central must ask him to detail publicly for them what money has been received in the electorate under the many project funds that are today available throughout the country – how much is received each year in district services improvement fund for instance, or under the national agriculture development fund, or under health or education or transport funding.
This is the only way the people and their leaders can hold themselves accountable to each other and, in the process, ensure public funds are put to their intended use.
The other myriad of accounting and oversight bodies, authorised by law to do checks and balances, have long ago lost the ability to follow track of all public funds. Firstly, it is because the funds are leaving the system via far too many conduits. And, secondly, because the agencies just do not have the capacity.
The auditor-general and the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee have both admitted that following the trail of money into each electorate is virtually impossible.
Each does not have the funding or staffing resources to do that job well.
The Ombudsman Commission has even far less capacity and the police fraud squad even lesser.
And so, for accountability and in order to put public funds to good use, the people and their leadership must check on each other to ensure they are performing their roles.
If the member delivers cash or kind to a certain area, he must hold local leaders and the people accountable not just to build the desired project but also for its maintenance.
It is not good to see an
MP delivering cash year on year with nothing to show for it. And it has happened and is happening in many places.
At the same time, it is no good if people do not insist or put pressure on their MP to account for all he has
received in the people’s name.
So long as this task is carried out in every electorate throughout the country, we will begin to see very real development taking place and not just people pocketing cash and rushing back to towns to spend it.
So long as this can happen in a consistent fashion, the cacophony of voices coming from the international communities, agencies and governments urging good governance and transparency and accountability in this country will dwindle.
They will see communities and their leaders working together to develop their societies while, at the same time, being each other’s best checks against excess.
After all is said and done, and in the absence of capacity in oversight agencies and institutions, oversight must be provided by the people themselves.