Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Executive Director of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Moveta Munroe is urging members of parliament (MPs) to reconsider the use of $1.5 million from the $15-million allocated to them this fiscal year for consultancy services.
Munroe indicated yesterday that officers from the CDF unit were available to assist parliamentarians with their projects in the various constituencies.
"If we look at $15 million and examine an area such as consultancy, one of the things we have been saying to MPs is that we have our officers in place so the demand on your consultancy is much less, so one should reconsider whether you want to spend $1.5 million on that or a portion of that amount," Munroe insisted.
She was addressing members of the CDF committee at its first meeting for the new parliamentary year.
The CDF executive director also suggested that a ceiling be placed on the amount of funds that should be spent on different categories of projects.
Much greater need
She noted that even though CDF spending on welfare and emergency was "mandated at five per cent" significant sums were used to fund this area.
"We are fully aware that the need out there is much greater than the five per cent," she said.
However, Munroe cautioned that "one has to be careful that when you look back at the year there is nothing tangible that we as a unit could look at and say this is what has been achieved, though there may be the human and social development".
Pushing for increased consultation with constituents, Munroe argued that her unit had discovered that "a lot of demands coming from the people are not necessarily what the MP is thinking ...".
South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington disagreed with the suggestion that a ceiling be placed on spending for social housing and welfare.
He said in many constituencies the greatest need was in the area of welfare and social housing.
"We can't limit the MP where this is concerned when in effect, particularly in inner city constituencies ... education and social housing are our greatest needs in some areas," Warmington said.
Citing demands from constituents for assistance to fill prescriptions and bury their dead, Warmington insisted that MPs should not be confined to spending on social needs.
"We can't limit MPs and use a yard stick to judge everyone ... ."
Denise Daley, East St Catherine MP, contended that resources from the CDF should not be used to establish monuments.
"I do not want it to appear as if at the end of the year, if we are not showing some pictures of some great big buildings it means that the CDF has not served its purpose."
However, Mikael Phillips, MP for North West Manchester, defended the CDF executive director's arguments.
"It is for this reason why people out there think that we use it for pork barrel politics," he said.
"I agree with the CDF unit ... because you can end up spending out your CDF money on welfare."
Phillips stressed that a cap should be placed on the amount MPs spend for social welfare.
Arguing that the "buck" stops with MPs, North East St Ann MP Shahine Robinson said: "We must have some amount of flexibility as MPs to decide what happens in the constituencies that we represent."