The New Democratic Party (NDP) believes now more than ever, that we have to revisit our administrative development approach. If we examine the constituency representatives’ records of service to the voters of our blessed land, it is difficult not to conclude that we have witnessed a system failure in our political administrative process. We can solve the problem through the implementation of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
If we approach national development from a constituency level, we are more likely to have a better result, specifically the following: more people will share the national pie, national wealth will be more adequately distributed, more people will get the opportunity to participate in contributing to production at all levels and broaden the number of people who own the wealth in the country.
It is our view that, if all of our constituencies develop, then automatically, the whole country will develop. A natural expansion of this approach is that we can have more and better capital project implementation, if better provisions are in place for constituency representatives to assist in their respective constituencies within the framework of the financial and audit requirements of the government.
The successful operation of any CDF is contingent upon strong involvement and leadership of the elected representatives. The Members of Parliament play an essential role in facilitating constituents’ participation to make claim upon government services. In this role, Members of Parliament can ensure that CDF resources are used efficiently and honestly, with the intent to meet the public interests of their constituencies. Thus, the potential offered by the CDF hinges on the initiative of Members of Parliament and their dedication to empowering citizens to participate in their own development.
For example, St. Lucia and Jamaica have implemented the CDF. In Jamaica, the CDF has been used to rehabilitate houses for indigents, fix roads, undertake agricultural projects, repair schools and community centres, provide back-to-school assistance, and assist with sports and healthy lifestyle projects. Similar projects have been undertaken in St. Lucia. Recently, Grenada’s Prime Minister raised concerns that resources were not provided for elected parliamentary representatives to do anything in their constituencies. Therefore, they cannot provide effective representation for their constituents, and hinted that he would implement the CDF.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines will benefit tremendously from the implementation of the CDF under an NDP administration. The NDP is committed to the CDF so that each elected parliamentary representative can provide effective representation to his constituency.
Guidelines for Constituency Development Fund
The following are general principles of good governance that should apply to all Constituency Development Fund (CDF), as outlined by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which the NDP will adopt. These are responsiveness, transparency, administration and management, accountability, and monitoring and evaluation.
Responsiveness: The Constituency Development Fund shall improve the well-being and livelihood of constituents. The primary benefit of a CDF is to direct additional resources to constituencies to solve socio-economic and humanitarian problems identified by constituents and elected representatives. Project selection and implementation shall be based on the needs of the people who will be provided with opportunities to communicate their diverse development needs to their elected representatives and CDF committees. Responsiveness can also be achieved through a variety of means, including public forums and discussions about a community’s development needs. A responsive CDF process shall also solicit input from all legitimate stakeholders by regularly including them in project selection and implementation.
As in the case of the CDF, it is the fundamental cornerstone of an open government that promotes citizen engagement. Transparency refers to the administration of government services in an open and publicly observable manner that creates opportunities for public participation. The process of CDF project selection and implementation shall be transparent. Members of parliament and CDF committees shall consult constituents about local development problems and all possible solutions. All financial information regarding the use of CDF on projects shall be publicly available and documented according to standard and auditable accounting principles. Documentation of CDF shall be made publicly available in a timely manner.
Administration and Management: The CDF shall be administered and managed in an efficient, effective and transparent manner. In this regard, the elected representative and committees shall facilitate the process by mobilizing citizen participation, streamlining implementing mechanisms and proactively complying with them. Such actions ensure that the CDF administration and management will be performed in a timely fashion and remain faithful to the CDF. The CDF shall be allocated to individuals in a fair and equitable manner, regardless of the elected Member’s Parliament partisanship, gender or religion. The CDF shall be channeled to a separate account of a public agency. Access to the funds shall be limited to officially authorized administrators. Funds shall be managed according to the best practices of public financial management.
Accountability and oversight play essential roles in promoting project quality, improving decision-making, and preventing corruption and abuse of CDF funds. Proper oversight of CDF financing ensures fiscal probity and promotes accountability to the public.
And, Monitoring and Evaluation: Monitoring and evaluation of CDF projects are essential tasks to help ensure learning about what actions are most effective in fostering constituency development. Monitoring ensures that CDF projects are progressing toward their goal, while evaluation assesses the efficiency, effectiveness, impact and results of a CDF project. Monitoring shall be performed throughout a CDF project to ensure that it is progressing towards its publicly stated goal. Constituents and legitimate stakeholders shall be afforded opportunities to participate in the monitoring process. Evaluation shall be conducted upon completion of projects, by appropriate government agencies. Evaluation shall be made publicly available to ensure that CDF committees are aware of the effectiveness of previous CDF projects. The guidelines listed are key for the effective implementation and management of the CDF.