Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MSJ: Expect new levels of bobol, bacchanal with constituency fund

 The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has said the People’s Partnership government was really trying to introduce a “slush fund” through its proposal of a constituency fund for MPs.

In a statement yesterday the MSJ said it condemned the proposal when it was first proposed in August 2012, and it condemns again Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for reintroducing the idea during debate recently in the Senate on the Constitution Amendment Bill (2014).

The MSJ described it as another “self-serving” measure  in addition to “self-serving pensions” and the “self-serving run-off provision” in the Bill. 

In piloting the Bill Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar said the allocation for each constituency, as was announced in 2012, will be $10 million for 41 MPs. The PM said the proposed constituency fund would be coming in the September 8 budget and the necessary legislation has been prepared by the Attorney General. She said the money will not be placed in the accounts of MPs but pass through local government bodies.   

But the MSJ noted, “Four hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ funds in the hands of partisan politicians. If this is how constituency development is now to be promoted, it represents another indictment on the governance practices of the People’s Partnership government and another complete repudiation of the policy positions articulated in the Manifesto of the Partnership, which Manifesto is supposed to be government policy.

“First and foremost, it is the responsibility of Local Government bodies, statutory authorities like WASA, and government ministries such as the Ministry of Works to provide the services for which this fund is to be used in constituencies and communities, and this money should be provided to local government bodies to use on the needs of the community in a fair and transparent manner, and not under directions of any MP. It is very clear that there will be many clashes and overlaps with these entities. Further, given the issues of corruption, nepotism, discrimination, and other malpractices, which continue to surface within existing state enterprises even though they are subject to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee, the country can expect unprecedented new levels of bobol and bacchanal given the partisan nature of the management of the fund.

“What is likely to happen is that these funds become another make work scheme for party hacks and the faithful, as well as means of shoring up party support in constituencies, while at the same time providing direct dealing between politicians and suppliers, as the local government bodies are instructed as how to spend these funds. In such circumstances arrangements can easily be made to ensure that some of these funds are syphoned back to line the pockets of officials,” the MSJ said.