MALAMPA Provincial Council books on track
The position of Commissioner to the MALAMPA Provincial Council is now redundant as Joe Massing takes on the position of assistant Secretary General (SG) to newly appointed SG, David Hopa, in the Council.
The changes come after Minister of Internal Affairs, George Wells, reinstated the MALAMPA Council Thursday August 2, 2012, a move welcomed by MALAMPA province president Robson Aison and his council as provincial elections loom in October- less than two months away.
Director General to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri, told Daily Post the PENAMA, SANMA TORBA provincial councils, still under suspension may be reinstated soon.
But currently it is just MALAMPA.
DG Bogiri said, “what was legally owed to the once suspended councillors has been paid.”
In his capacity as Commissioner to the MALAMPA provincial council and teamwork from the province staff Mr Massing made significant changes to the council structure and operations in the first three months of his appointment which this writer will share with the readers here.
Minister Wells levied an eight month suspension (or more depending on the investigations) on the provincial councils of MALAMPA, PENAMA, SANMA and TORBA in March, 2012 and appointed four Commissioners in Luke Shem (SANMA), Shedrack Welegtabit (PENAMA) Joe Massing (MALAMPA) and Ian Abil (TORBA).
Investigators set out to prove whether financial transactions have been carried out in accordance of the Provisions of the Decentralization Act (CAP 230) with the Local Council Financial Regulations, Ministerial instructions and Relevant Accounting Standards and reported back to the Minister.
Putting the Books in order
Then Commissioner Massing admitted the overall challenge to improve the financial situation of council operations, in particular to create changes and address development was difficult.
“There were many things administration wise which required immediate attention,” he said.
“The administration system could not accommodate the developments taking place requiring a change but there is no room for finger pointing to blame people.
“Overall there needed to be improvement at the council level to the provincial council administration and area councils.
“The structure of the province needed to be reviewed and one of the first tasks I did was to review the structure. The existing structure was an old system which was not practical to implement the government’s service delivery.”
A new structure catering for new units in the council was created to be presented at the PENAMA Forum (May 2012) when all provincial presidents and SGs had dialogue on Development issues in their respective provinces where it was expected this can be standardised to be used by other provinces.
New structure, positive results
With the new structure in place there were significant changes.
“The officers had a heightened realisation of their responsibilities,” said Massing.
“The problem with the non performing financial budget is because many of the revenue generating units were not enlightened on the scope of their responsibilities.
“Many of the income received by the council were in other sections and the books were not in order. So a new management level was introduced, this means every managers are obliged to meet consistently and monitor their budget.
“Every month they must cross check with the accountant on the financial performance of the administration, for example whether revenue or expenditure is up to performance, this way they are up to date and can identify any weaknesses and which areas needed to be improved.”
On the creation of the new divisions, the Enforcement Unit, responsible for revenue was separated, enabling the officer in charge to focus fully on revenue operations.
This overcame a major hurdle as previously every section focused on revenue making monitoring very difficult and as a result in 2011 there was a big budget deficit, contributing to the financial performance of the council which came to the attention of Minister Wells.
The MALAMPA Council receives Vt30-40million annual grant. If the government expects service delivery from provinces then it is only rational it provides resources and adequate funding for service delivery to be rolled out.
There are two things; one to improve the administration structure of the province and then maybe the government can open up on funding and service delivery can be facilitated and the operations of the next months and budget look promising.
Previously budget and expenditure matters were the decisions of individuals but now the presentation is the opposite after budget meetings.
The new structure makes it possible for individuals to be accountable for their decisions.
Massing says often when something goes wrong the Council is questioned but now individuals can be questioned and held responsible for decisions they take.
The new structure facilitates reporting to the council, the flow of information from administration to the council is an area identified for strengthening.
Once this is improved the SG will have all up to date information reports in each unit, services developed in areas and communities, very important because the council cannot make good decisions in the absence of sound, updated reports.
New Investment Unit
Commissioner Massing pointed out it is not feasible for a province to fully rely on the government grant. “The province should not rely on the government grant but also generate its revenue independently,” he said.
“We have created a new investment unit. One way is through its investments like guesthouses. In the last years no revenue was generated through projects, take for instance guesthouses-there was no revenue.
“This is a very weak area and to improve this area we have created a new investment unit.”
He said an investment officer will now oversee the provinces’ investment portfolio and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in MALAMPA.
Often FDIs abroad coming in through the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority to the Province go out and do as they please.
“An aim of this investment unit is to have its own investment policy or the MALAMPA Investment policy,” said Massing.
“Potential investors coming to MALAMPA will be required to meet the Province’s Investment Unit policy because while we embrace investment we have to ensure our resources are not depleted. It must be a sustainable investment.
“For example we will prioritise investments; investment in mining is not feasible because it will destroy livestock and agriculture, how can the landowners benefit from this?
“The province needs to have all policies in place. A task of the Investment Unit is to have an Asset Management Team (AMT). They will be responsible for managing all the projects and will ensure the Guesthouse project will generate its own revenue.
“Funds collected will then be injected into maintaining the Guesthouse. Each project must generate its own revenue to operate and maintain itself, if not then the AMT must find out why.
“For example it is not viable for funds to be withdrawn from the main account everytime the Guesthouse runs short of the essentials the Guesthouse operates on.”