Parliament to get report on call for CDF hike
The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Committee yesterday accepted a recommendation from
Dr Dayton Campbell that a request for increasing the CDF allocation to members of parliament be included in its next report to the Lower House.
Campbell, member of parliament for St Ann North West, lamented the inadequacy of the $15-million allocation to repair roads, clinics, schools, and effect other infrastructural improvements. He argued for a review of the formula proposed by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding that 0.5 per cent of the national Budget of expenditure be set aside for this purpose. This would then be increased by a further 0.5 per cent over four years, up to a maximum of 2.5 per cent of the country's Budget, which would be more practical.
This should be accompanied by a public awareness drive to help constituents appreciate the role of parliamentarians, as the current system puts a lot of unfair pressure on elected officials, he further argued.
"A lot of persons out there will place at the feet of the member of parliament the responsibility to deliver all the services in the communities and they don't have access to the resources to do. I think that it is unfair to hold somebody responsible for something that they have not been empowered to do," the medical doctor said.
"I think that a submission from this committee should be made, and this is probably the appropriate time, when they are looking at the numbers for the next Budget, so that we can have a more meaningful discussion towards empowering the different officials. A lot of the apathy that you see out there is because people have been voting and they can't get what they want."
Accountability would also have to be factored into the process, he insisted.
"We can put the necessary rules in place to say that X amount has to be spent on infrastructure. So we understand that it is not just a welfare thing, that you're handing out things to persons. But, there can be a development plan from the constituency that can be funded by the Government so people can effectively represent the constituencies that elect them."
Pork-barrel label rejected
Moveta Munroe, executive director of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Unit, which operates out of the Office of the Prime Minister, supported a recommendation from Dr Dayton Campbell that a request for increasing the CDF allocation to members of parliament (MP) be included in its next report to Parliament. However, she admitted that MPs, her office and journalists have been negligent in facilitating the necessary education of beneficiaries.
"One of the reasons that the unit insists on having the community consultations is for just that purpose. What we have been finding, though, is that there is some reluctance from some members of parliament to entertain or to have the community consultations. It is part of our requirement and we are gonna move very seriously on it in the next couple of months.
"In terms of the publication of it being a pork barrel, it is unfortunate that nobody steps out into the different constituencies to find out how the fund is spent. But we get labelled as pork barrel and no investigative work is done as to what members of parliament go through, how the money is spent, who are the beneficiaries, and how it is helping the persons out there."