No more pork barrelMPs should monitor government activities, not manage them
In a long-standing tradition, elected lawmakers have been granted funds for their constituencies, which can be spent at their discretion, albeit after much pandemonium at Parliament. Contradictory to the budgetary provision, the government last week endorsed the working procedure of Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme (LIDPP), which not only increased the number of projects, but also bestowed lawmakers with discretionary powers in project selection. The programme is modified version of the controversial Constituency Infrastructure Special Programme (CISP) and the Constituency Development Programme (CDP). The budget for the current fiscal year has allocated Rs40million for each constituency under this programme.
Although the extent of misuse of the fund is widely reported by the media, it bears repeating.
The CISP and CDP channel money from the central government directly to electoral constituencies for local infrastructure projects through lawmakers. Such funding arrangements will have a negative impact on accountability, service delivery, and development that most poor countries like ours can ill afford. According to officials at the Federal Affairs Ministry, the option of selecting as many as 20 projects goes against the current fiscal year budget that states maximum of five projects related to road, drinking water, irrigation and river control could be carried out in one constituency. When lawmakers start to act as project managers, it breaches the separation of power that is fundamental to any democracy, reduces the government capacity, and weakens the oversight of the legislature.
The separation of powers is meant to uphold good governance by limiting the authority of each branch of government. Channeling funds directly through lawmakers transgresses the separation of power by granting executive powers of budget implementation on MPs. Further, in countries like ours where established implementation agencies are dysfunctional and corruption is rampant, it would also be hard to believe that the amount of money demanded would be used in compliance with the public account and
What’s more, the country has now been transformed from a unitary to a federal system. With the transition, the task of development has now been handed over to the provincial governments and legislatures. This is a time when state governments need to be strengthened. Chief Ministers from various provinces have been expressing displeasure that they lack resources and infrastructure. If now the government instead focuses on disbursing resources to members of the federal parliament, it would mean that the central government will continue having more responsibility and authority over development issues than the provincial governments. Over time, such mechanisms could not only undermine the provincial and local governments, but also lead to the devaluation of the existing system of government.
Granted, the MPs had their own manifestos and promised a lot to their constituencies during the election, but LIDPP is not the appropriate way to accomplish them. Our elected officials should stick to their job of monitoring government activities and not manage them.