No to SIP fund increase

The National | Editorial | 5.09.2023

The Prime Minister James Marape has intimated to various audiences that the District Service Improvement (DSIP) fund will be increased from the current K10 million per open electorate to K20 million.

We presume naturally that the other two services improvement programmes at the provincial and local level government (LLG) will also be doubled.

The Provincial Services Improvement Programme (PSIP) might be doubled to K10 million for each of the 22 provinces and the LLGSIP will be increased to K1 million for each of the 396 LLGs.

Currently, LLGs are allocated K500,000 each and PSIP gets K5 million per electorate in the province.

Remembering now that open electorates have increased to 118 from the previous 111, we are faced with a large increase as well in future.

The idea is a bad one and only good for its political purposes.

We urge the good Prime Minister to shelve this plan immediately because it is a temptation to corruption.

Where there exists any chance that corruption might be let in through the door, he has a duty to close the door firmly shut, not to open it wide which is what he will definitely be doing if he doubles the services improvement programme funding.

A whopping K1.5 billion is spent out of the national budget on this programme and yet not one report has been made to the Parliament by the Minister for Finance as is required under Section 63 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The Act is explicit in this requirement.

Every government entity is compelled by a “shall” requirement to report on management and the operations of every public office to the Minister for Finance at least once every year.

The Minister shall make available this report to the Auditor General which is compelled by the Provisions of the Audit Act (1989) to audit the operations of the public offices and make a report to Parliament.

To date, no report, either individually or collectively, has been made to Parliament on the distributions and use of the service improvement programme funds.

All we get to hefty allocation of SIP funds under the budget each year.

As to whether each district gets the full K10 million in each financial year and their distribution on the ground is unclear.

We only have acquittals to the Rural Development Office as the only evidence of the fund’s use.

There are no management reports together with financial statements submitted to the Minister of Finance before June 30 each year as required of all public bodies, which is a district development authority (DDA), as stipulated by the PFMA section 63.

Acquittals by DDAs which are done to the Rural Development Office have only one utility and purpose. That is to qualify a DDA for the next disbursement and to keep the Ombudsman from a Member’s throat.

Whatever is used, acquittal; only depends on the honesty of Members of Parliament and their DDAs which for the time being are completely outside of the Auditor Generals and the PFMA’s purview.

So long as this very serious governance issue remains unattended, any increase in DSIP is unwise and opens the door to temptation and corrupt use of public funds.

It is obvious by the silence of MPs that nobody is going to contest an increase in the people’s house.

Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill stands alone opposing this increase publicly.

We commend him and urge other MPs to hold off on any increase until proper systems and processes are established and resources allocated for proper accountability and transparency to be brought upon this very substantial allocation of the public monies.