News

MPs put millions in education

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 07, 2014    

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MEMBERS of Parliament spent approximately $200 million of their $1-billion Constituency Development Fund (CDF) budget on educational projects over the three-month period, July to September, last year.

The $199.7 million which the MPs spent over the three months, which span the graduation season in July and the opening of the new school year in September, brought their total spending on educational projects for the first six months of 2013/14, April-October, close to $269 million.

Education provided the most popular projects for the MPs between April and September, as they spent $242 million of the total $488 million approved by the CDF for the April to September period. For October, the first month of the third quarter of the financial year, which ends in March, the legislators continued the trend by spending $26 million of the $90 million available from the CDF for the month.

The next major finance item was emergencies and welfare, which saw MPs providing assistance for constituents in need of social support at a cost $62 million over the seven months. This was followed by consultancy funding, under which the MPs pay fees to Government agencies, like the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the National Works Agency (NWA), to oversee those projects, which cost them close to $59 million.

Social housing, which is mainly aimed at assisting indigents in the constituencies, cost them close to $47 million while, surprisingly only $27.6 million was spent on sports development during the total period.

Two other interesting areas in which the MPs invested were disaster mitigation, which cost them $54 million, although these projects were implemented some eight months after Hurricane Sandy in November, 2012; and economic enablement, which provided funding for people to start their own income-earning projects.

Least on the bill was the $18.6 million spent on Labour Day projects, albeit a single day's work including bushing and drain-cleaning, followed by Independence/Festival to which the 63 MPs donated only $3.5 million.

The MPs had, however, spent only $578 million of their $1 billion budget for 2013/14 by the end of October, leaving them with approximately $400 million to be spent by March next year.

The CDF offers MPs a designated funding mechanism for constituency projects, through a unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. It is headed by a director, Moveta Monroe, and oversight is provided by a select committee of the House of Representatives, chaired by Dr D K Duncan.

The main thrust of the fund is to promote human and infrastructure development at the community and constituency levels, through the establishment of sustainable development projects.

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