MPs pay tribute to UNDP Parliamentary Strengthening Project

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THE United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Parliamentary Strengthening Project (PSP) is one of the most successful institutional and capacity building projects the country has seen.

That’s according to chairman of the Parliamentary House Committee and MP for West Makira, Derick Manu’ari when in a motion to thank the UNDP project in parliament, yesterday.

Mr Manu’ari, who was one of the pioneers of the project, thanked and highlighted areas of great achievement he has seen through the implementation of the project since it started in 2005 and ended on the 31st of March 2015.

“The 10-year project successfully assisted in strengthening the National Parliament’s capacity to effectively deliver on its constitutional mandate,” Mr Manu’ari said.

“It was also designed to support the achievement of goals and targets set out in the Solomon Islands National Strategy 2011 – 2020, particularly its outcomes in Governance,” he added.

“In a nutshell the many things we see, used and supported with in this parliament is the direct result of the project.

“I believe those of you who have been with parliament before the project would testify to the fact that the National Parliament office have greatly change in so many ways as a result of the project.”

Mr Manu’ari highlighted parliament corporate planning, strengthening of parliamentary committees, and the creation of new departments within parliament as the many achievements of the project.

That includes the parliamentary procedures office, the parliamentary civic education department, the media, ICT departments and the upgrading of Hansard and Security system in parliament.

“Indeed the project has transformed parliament into a modern parliament that is now able to provide professional and high level of services to its members and stakeholders.

“And I am pleased to say here that at the moment as a result of the project, our parliament the National Parliament of Solomon Islands is one of if not the best in the region excluding Australia and New Zealand.

“Our parliament has been talked highly of in region as an example of a successful institutional and capacity building program, something that all of us should be proud of.

“Our parliament’s committee inquiries and hearings and the work of our civic department are amongst the many things that are often been admired and impressed by our regional neighbours.”

Mr Manu’ari applauded the government for taking the issue of administrative autonomy for Parliament on board.

“Sir I was informed that the work on this has been going on well and that the project through a consultant last year has completed four draft bills related to this autonomy.”

He said he is pleased to note that for the first time a ruling has included parliament development in its policy and government must be applauded for this.

Having highlighted the achievements of the project, Mr Manu’ari erick reminded the House of possible threats that may undermine the achievement that Parliament have made as a result of the project.

He said the main threats on the achievements are the question of sustaining the achievements made through the project.

“Sir, programs like national wide committee inquiries, civic constituency tours, televising of parliament and committee proceedings are expensive to execute.

“It is therefore very important that parliament and the government make adequate budgetary provisions to ensure that these programs continue to be supported in the future.”

He further emphasised that for parliament to make proper sense to the wider community of our society it has to happen through these programs.

“If we do not provide the necessary budgetary provisions then we are not only drowning the achievements of the project but we are failing our responsibility to educate our society on the system that governs them.”

Meanwhile, Mr Manu’ari thanked the following individuals who have worked tirelessly to ensure the project came to its fulfillment.

They include former speakers and statesmen Paul Tovua and Sir Peter Kenilorea and former Clerk to National Parliament Taeasi Sanga.

“I believed all of us in this honourable chamber would agree that it is only right that this House fully acknowledges and thank them for their vision and contributions to the project and to the National Parliament.”

he further thanked his former colleagues who have served under the project and the project managers who have managed the project since 2005.

The last national project manager to its completion this year is Celsus Talifilu whom with others started with the project in 2006.

Mr Celsus is the only person who has stayed with the project from the start right to the end.

“Thank you Celsus for dedicating your time for the service of this country and I wish you and your two other colleagues well in your future.”

Other project Managers were Warren Cahil, Dr John Patterson and David Kusilifu.

As a brief background to how this project came about, Mr Manu’ari highlighted that support to parliament or strengthening of parliaments by international and multinational donor agencies like UNDP is something that is quite new.

It was recognised that since the end of World War II very little attention been given by donor agencies like UNDP to capacitating and strengthening of parliaments of the immerging democracies.

The lion share of international donor funding in institutional strengthening and capacity building is often been given to the executive arm of the government.

This as studies have shown resulted in parliament’s inability to provide effective checks and balances on the many complex activities of the executive.

It is believed that this had led to poor governance and instability that has been experienced in most of the immerging democracies including Solomon Islands.

Mr Manu’ari further said that in our region, it was well recognised that parliaments were poorly resourced and have little capacity to support its members in carrying out their representative and national duties.

This was confirmed through a Legislative Needs Assessments (LNA) study that was conducted on a number of countries in the region, including Solomon Islands in 2003 and 2004.

“Sir the findings contained in LNA has led to this project and I am very grateful that UNDP have responded positively to the request that was made to them to put the findings of the LNA into a project and the rest was history.”

The project has three phases; phases 1 & 2 were completed in 2009 and 2012 respectively and phase 3, which is the final phase, had just completed at the end of last month.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his contributions to the motion concurred to the successful outcome of the project and acknowledged the call from both the Legislature and the Judiciary for autonomy.

He said while the academic argument on the issue of autonomy in the interest of good governance is wide, it goes down directly to politicians to drive this objective, especially the government of the day.

“Government is committed to continue to have discussions over the issue and if there is a need to devote time to bring the issue to the floor of Parliament or even outside to seriously discuss the matter, let’s do it.”

Leader of Opposition, Jeremiah Manele among his many acknowledgements of the project and those who have initiated, funded and served in it, said “we need to sustain and build on the gains that the project has achieved”.

By that, he hoped that the Government through its responsible Ministry of Public Service is prepared to absorb and accommodate staff and services that were part of the project and offer them appropriate remuneration in order to retain them.

“Failure to do so would undermine the gains and improvements we have achieved so far under the project,” Mr Manele said.

“We need to properly equip and resource parliament if we are serious about the plans for autonomy.”

Leader of Independent group, Manasseh Maelanga in his testimony on the success and progress of the project highlighted the high professional output by the Secretariat to Committees who has set high standard and quality performance in assisting MPs to facilitate committee hearings and inquiries.

He also highlighted the work of the Civic Education Department for educating constituents on the roles and functions of Parliament.

“All in all, there is a lot of improvement. So it is now a call on government to see how it will further develop Parliament after this project has ended.”

He said autonomy is the most important among other developments for Parliament.

The DCC government has included support to further development of Parliament in its policy.

The Parliamentary Strengthening Project is a multi-donor assisted project that has been supporting the National Parliament of Solomon Islands for a 10 years period under the auspices of UNDP.

The project started in 2005 and ended on the 31st of March this year.

SOURCE: Solomon Star, 30/04/2015,