MEMBERS OF Parliament (MPs), in an apparent move to escape mounting criticisms from some constituents in relation to how the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation is spent, are calling for the fund's unit in the Office of the Prime Minister to spearhead a public-education drive on how the money must be used.
"It would not hurt … if there was a national educational support from the CDF unit to assist us with the battering we are getting within our constituencies and also nationally from the media," MP for North West Manchester, Mikael Phillips, suggested Tuesday during a meeting of the CDF committee of Parliament.
On Tuesday, committee members discussed issues surrounding the spending of the CDF on educational programmes in a number of constituencies.
Phillips made the appeal after South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington dismissed a recommendation by Eastern St Andrew MP André Hylton that a national public-education programme should be carried out by the unit.
"You have the Gleaner editorial which is always beating on the CDF that it is a pork barrel," Phillips said, noting that money had been spent to carry out valuable work in constituencies, including infrastructural projects.
IGNORANCE IN CONSTITUENCIES
Hylton had shared with his colleagues at the CDF meeting that many of his constituents did not understand how the fund was used.
"Most people still believe it is money that an MP has in his pocket to give to people and to spend," he said.
But Warmington dissented, arguing that it was the MPs who were responsible for educating their constituents about the CDF.
He contended that every project submitted by an MP should have been the subject of serious consultation between the political representative and constituency committees.
Warmington is of the view that MPs should organise annual meetings with interest groups in their constituencies to discuss projects to be targeted.
However, North West St Ann MP Dayton Campbell said a national public-education drive would take on more significance with the current debate on the amount of CDF spent on education.
"Some persons may be of the impression that some MPs choose to spend on one thing as opposed to others. A clear signal needs to be given as to how the funds are allocated and what amount can be allocated to a specific programme," Campbell stated.
Committee Chairman Dr D.K. Duncan supported the call for some element of public education on the CDF.
"This issue has arisen because of many other complex factors which have very little to do with the CDF itself, except that at the outset there were certain forces in the society who were not in favour of the CDF, no matter how it was run," Duncan asserted.
Debate on the use of the CDF has intensified in the media following a fallout between East Rural St Andrew MP Damion Crawford and some of his constituents, supposedly over the spending of the CDF on mainly education programmes.
MPs have been allocated $15 million under the CDF to spend on projects in their constituencies this parliamentary year. The sum has been reduced from $20 million in the previous year.