Fiji’s budget transparency score drops to 41

Civil Society Alliance combine to provide food security shop

THE Fijian Government’s budget transparency score has dropped a couple of points; the civil society alliance on COVID19 announced this afternoon.

The COVID19 civil society alliance includes Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), Social Education Empowerment Programme (SEEP), Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND), Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, FemLink Pacific and Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF).

SEEP head Chantelle Khan said Fiji dropped to 39th place from 41 last year on the list of 100 governments surveyed annually for its budget transparency.

The score is devised by the International Budget Partnership that works with civil society, state actors, international organizations and private sector to promote inclusive budgeting processes.

The budget transparency score is determined by an annual survey which measures how much a government engages with communities when it puts together its national operating budget. Implying government had lost the trust of the grassroots in its budget formulation process, the alliance insisted there were ways that trust could be regained.

At a press conference this afternoon the heads of the NGOs demanded government returned to the Opposition Parties the position of chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC is tasked with scrutinizing how well government implements its financial policies.

Get back public trust

“Apart from the survey that’s been done and we score consistently low on these surveys. It’s about saying to government – how about putting back into the hands of our opposition, the (position of) Public Accounts Committee Chair. As an alliance we are demanding that the government to get the trust back of the people do one simple thing if you can, the Public Accounts Committee,” Ms Khan said.

“That’s our way to hold you accountable, it is a way of saying that the money that you keep on telling us you have goes directly to the people you say it’s going to get to.”

“No more taking your word for it simply because you’re the Prime Minister, or you’re the Attorney General.”

SEEP head Chantelle Khan

FemLink Pacific coordinator Susan Grey said the alliance had called for collective multi stakeholder approach.

Susan Naisara-Gey of FemLinkPacific.
Susan Naisara-Gey of FemLinkPacific. Photo: JOSEFA KOTOBALAVU

Not enough consultation

“We are dissatisfied that government has not made any meaningful efforts to engage with civil society,” Ms Grey said.

“Therefore we the CSO COVID-19 alliance call on government to invite us to the table for dialogue and discussions on pertinent matters that affect our local communities.”

FWCC head Shamima Ali called on cabinet ministers to stop ‘glossing over’ complaints directed at government.

“We are on the ground also, we can see our neighbors, we can see our communities, and we know what they are going through. At the Crisis Centre, we are giving out more food parcels than ever before. Now we are seeing all kinds of people, men are calling us!”

She said the FWCC are now also responding to men going through trauma from the economic impact of COVID19.

“Men are going through a lot of trauma, we have had to set up a separate line for men that we can refer to when our male advocates are working for, so they can lessen the pain they are going through from the loss of jobs and things like that.”

FWCC head Shamima Ali

Alliance partners with TISI Sangam for Food Bank

Meanwhile FRIEND Fiji head Sashi Kiran who led another press conference soon after the budget conference announced a partnership between several members of the CSO COVID19 alliance and the TISI Sangam to provide a one stop shop initiative in the western division to support children with school lunches.

FRIEND Fiji head Sashi Kiran
FRIEND Fiji head Sashi Kiran. Photo: JOSEFA KOTOBALAVU

FRIEND Fiji had early in the pandemic run food banks in the western division.

“We have been hearing all the time that more than 100,000 have been impacted by the pandemic. It means different things to different people. We are beginning to see much more despair and much more pain.”

FRIEND Fiji head Sashi Kiran

TISI Sangam has given the CSO COVID19 Alliance a building to roll out food security services from.

“Primarily we are looking at a food bank. When we provide food to people, we will discuss with them what food security should look like. So we are also providing seedlings.”

Ms Kiran said those who come to the new facility would get livelihood training and advise on livelihood options. The facility is will be based in Nadi; considered Fiji’s ground zero of economic impact of the pandemic.

“We are grateful and we are looking for more and more organisations to step up like Sangam has.”
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