Saving the Titanic, use the grants wisely

By The Editorial Board 21 June 2024, 10:00AM

When the Titanic was unveiled, it was deemed a marvel of engineering. They dubbed it the ‘unsinkable’. However, the doomed ship sank on its maiden voyage when it hit an iceberg.

When the $ 1 million district grant was promised, it was heralded as a game-changer for districts and villages. Its purpose is to help people get access to funds needed to improve lives without the hassle of bureaucratic red tape.

The idea was to let the people use the money, the way they see fit. However, it seems the use of the money in most districts has not done much to improve lives. Just like the Titanic, it is heading towards an iceberg.

According to the Minister for Women, Community and Social Development Mulipola Anarosa Ale-Molio'o, the Steering Committee has carefully considered feedback from district councils nationwide during recent site visits.

She said the discussions have centered on the simultaneous allocation of funds for operational costs, salaries, and the first tranche dedicated to proposed development plans across districts.

This means that once they complete the utilisation of the second $1 million and have satisfied the Committee with their acquittal, audited financial reports, they will sign the funding agreements and receive the grants for operational grants as well as the money earmarked for the different developments each district has proposed.

It has been confirmed that all 51 constituencies have received their allocations from the first $1 million, although concerns persist regarding fund utilisation in some including Fa'asaleleaga No.2 and Lepa. Additionally, seven constituencies have yet to finalise funding agreements for the second $1 million.

This means that of the $255 million to be used for five years, $105 million has been used already. Leaving a balance of $153 million that is to be paid out before the elections in 2026. The elections mark the end of the current government’s term and as promised the district grant has to be paid out before that.

If all 51 constituencies received their first full payments, the ministries responsible have to make the audit reports public and show how well the money has been used. Is there a reason why the audit reports of the first payment are yet to be made public?

It is public money and therefore its use should be public knowledge. The people need to know that this has not been a waste of public funds. Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa during the launch of the anti-corruption policy called for accountability and the Freedom of Information Act.

Do not horde on to the audit reports like it is a private matter. Step one to attaining accountability is practicing it.

The people have a right to know how many farming tools were bought, and how these tools improve agriculture in the district. There is a need to know how much was just given as vouchers and people ended up buying television sets and home appliances. We hope that the money has not been used for this.

This defeats the purpose it was given for. How many children were able to go to school because their fees were paid using the grants, how many teachers were paid salaries so there would be teachers in school?

These are the things people need to know to make their minds up for themselves if the grants have been used or abused. What will the government do to the people who have not been honest with the use of the money? Will they be taken to task?

Soon there will be the third payment. $1 million will be given in one go. Districts cannot keep buying farm tools and giving money away when there is no return to show for it. It is about investing in the right things. There have been positive developments as well and those have been highlighted.

We urge all districts to have education as their key focus. The government at a national level is not investing enough in education. Education is the only way for villages to prosper. When villages prosper, the districts prosper and so does the nation.

That is the only use of the grants that would bear real fruits. District grants should pay fees for children across the board, including, all primary schools, all secondary schools, tertiary education for those from struggling families, and bus fares for those whose families cannot afford it.

Education should be free and accessible to everyone. Quality education is a basic human right that can drive economic growth, promote social equality, and benefit society as a whole. When education is affordable, it can help break down barriers and create opportunities for all individuals to achieve their full potential. By investing in education, we can create a more equitable and just society for future generations.

We hope the audit reports for the grants are made public soon. Do not let the grants be like the Titanic.

By The Editorial Board 21 June 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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