Faux solutions for a real problem

Saturday, 26 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Government is trying a new trick to achieve development. On Wednesday Cabinet approval was given for the Public Administration and Home Affairs Ministry to monitor the effectiveness of development projects being implemented countrywide. This is a good move since the Finance Ministry in a  report released late last year estimates that 45% of projects are behind schedule, but the effectiveness of these committees is also in question.   The new system seeks to streamline the projects delegated to district and divisional levels and ensure that the people directly benefit. Billions have been allocated for infrastructure projects in all provinces and the divisional secretaries will be responsible for overseeing their implementation.

This is expected to pave the way to achieve development targets at divisional, district and national levels but the onus will be on the political leadership of the district to take on the leading role. This is where strong measures have to be taken to ensure that corruption and wastage are not only minimised but eradicated.

Corrupt chief ministers, provincial councillors and a plethora of officials comfortably line their nests with no regard for the price that will be paid by the country. One thing the floods revealed is the substandard construction of the infrastructure in the north and east where roads and bridges were swept away in the deluge. It is most likely that construction elsewhere in the country have suffered the same fate, albeit unknown by the people for the most part.

Submitted by Minister W.D.J. Seneviratne, the Cabinet paper details that a statistical and analytical information system will be prepared on the existing situation in the districts, identifying year 2009 as the base year. Action will be taken to formulate a five year target plan based on the analysis and information indicated while taking action to prepare annual plans based on the targeted five year plan. The District Secretary will play the role of coordinating the preparation of effective annual plans by implementing institutions functioning within the district in relation to targeted plans.

Officials hope that this methodology will pave the way to utilise district and divisional mechanisms in order to achieve expected development targets. The preparation, implementation and review of progress of these plans will be entrusted to the District Coordinating Committee.

In a report published by the Finance Ministry late last year it was noted that of the 681 ongoing development projects, 300 we are behind schedule and four have been halted altogether. It said that impediments to implementation continued to result in significant cost overruns.

The 681 projects, all above Rs. 50 million, have been allocated a total of Rs. 276.69 billion for 2010, but up to the third quarter of the year, only 53.59 per cent of the allocation had been disbursed, amounting to Rs. 148.29 billion.

Foreign sources are financing 215 of these projects while the Government is financing 466 projects. Rs. 213 billion is the allocation for foreign funded projects. The total value of the foreign funded projects is estimated at a little over Rs. 1.55 trillion. Ministerial changes and other impediments have resulted in slow progress and significant cost overrun as far as these projects are concerned the Treasury had pointed out.

This clearly shows the tough task cut out for the District Coordinating committees. Understandably they will need assistance to combat corruption and wastage and it is the people’s responsibility to provide this through whistle blowing tactics promoting transparency and good governance.