More whinging over DSIP grants

Editorial, Normal

The National – Thursday, June 16, 2011

SO, they agree the money is being abused but they are loath to get rid of it.
Parliamentarians agreed that the controversial district services improvement programme (DSIP) grants are being misused by district administrators who are signatories to the account without the approval of the joint district planning and budget priorities committee headed by the MPs.
This grant which has placed K22 million in the hand of each open MP since 2007 has seen not one report produced in parliament on its use.
The secretary for finance issued guidelines in June 2008 for the use of the DSIP funds but that was
long after K10 million each has been given to MPs in November 2007.
Loosely, the money was to have been spent on infrastructure rehabilitation maintenance projects with an allowance of 3% for administration.
A million kina each was to have been spent on education, health, law and justice, water supply and sanitation, agriculture and community- based projects, rural communication and electrification with the balance of K4 million to be spent on transport and community infrastructure.
To date, no MP has tabled in parliament whether or not this guidelines have been kept to the letter. Much is said about voluminous reports of project submissions, project implementation reports and acquittals of expenditure reaching the Office of Rural Development but none has ever made its way to parliament which is the right forum for all expenditure of public funds to be accounted for.
Following the K10 million, varying amounts of between K2 million and K4 million has been given to MPs under the DSIP between 2008 and this year.
All open MPs received K2 million allocations this year and to appease governors K1 million was allocated under a certain just introduced programme called provincial services improvement programme last year and, again, this year.
Finance Minister and Treasurer Peter O’Neill told parliament that the DSIP would be continued next year but he warned fellow parliamentarians that the money ought not to be used for campaign purposes.
And, just how does he propose to stop them doing exactly that?
In the absence of any checks and balances, in the absence of any credible audit and accounting capacity at the district level, this grant is open to abuse.
By the admittance of many MPs on Tuesday, this money has been abused and done so by the very people that MPs have employed as their own chief accounting and section 32 officers at the district level – the district administrators.
The concern was first raised in parliament by the member of Wewak Dr Moses Manwau this week.
Other members also voiced similar concerns.
The MPs who spoke in support claimed that district administrators were signatories and were using the funds at their discretion without the approval of the JDP&BPC, which is chaired by the local MP.
They said since they had no knowledge of the use of the funds, it was difficult for them to sign the acquittals and the necessary forms before new DSIP funds were released.
This is what the MPs, using the privilege of parliament, are saying.
We have yet to hear from the district administrators what their side of the story is.
It might well turn out that the noise by MPs in parliament is a lame excuse cooked up by MPs who have spent monies without regard for due process and might now be looking for scapegoats to hang the blame on.
In any case, MPs should not be whinging about this in parliament. They should rightly being investigating the misuse or abuse of funds and drag their district administrators before the courts.
And, at the very least, they ought to be calling a halt to the funds until all past funds have been acquitted and those electorates which are unable to acquit their funds ought to have the privilege suspended until they do so.
Until the DSIP grants are properly accounted for, they ought to be suspended but, of course, it will be a brave parliamentarian indeed who took up this cause and we just cannot see how this parliament can suspend this grant which has become one of the most unaccounted for item in the budget.