Analysis

Nemani Delaibatiki: Role Of The Provincial Councils Needs Review

Is it another layer of bureaucracy that slows down development in provinces? Do villages that pay provincial levy get a return on their contributions?
28 Nov 2019 15:53
Nemani Delaibatiki: Role Of The Provincial Councils Needs Review
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs Ratu Meleti Bainimarama (left), speaking at the Cakaudrove Provincial Council meeting on November 27, 2019 in Yaroi, Savusavu. Photo: Ministry of iTaukei Affairs

Analysis:

Are provincial councils fulfilling an essential service?

Or have they become another layer of bureaucracy that we do not need?

This question has been asked from time to time because of the challenges that face many villages.

If the provincial council is the engine room for growth and development in the provinces, then some have fallen short.

The question must be asked: Is it a development arm of the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs or just an advisory body or both?

Some development projects require a support letter from the provincial councils to get approved and started.

That’s about all the level of activity that comes from the councils.

The councils do not carry out development projects which are undertaken by villages and the tikina (districts).

The mata ni tikina (district reps) and the turaga ni koro (village headmen) liaise with the Roko and his staff in the provincial office and the Provincial Administrator who is the link to the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs.

All these officers are paid by the ministry.

The council’s administration budget is funded by the provincial levy. If some of the villages do not pay their levy, the council could be financially hamstrung.

Some of the councils face this challenge because some villages question the benefit of paying the levy.

The budget also pays for council meetings (twice a year), sitting allowance ($30 a day in some cases) and other administrative costs.

Some councils have a business unit where it invests some of its funds.

Over the years, some villages have asked what they have got in return for their provincial levy.

They could have used the money for their individual projects.

In Rewa for example, all 54 villages irrespective of their size are required to pay $1500 a year as a provincial levy.

Every three years, they pay $3000, part of it goes to the education committee.

The respective committees on youth and women also get funding from collected levy and proceeds from the annual fund-raising Rewa Day.

With women and youth, we often see the two different ministries involved in programmes at the village level. The villages and the districts are involved.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and foreign diplomatic missions based in Suva also pitch in.

What role does the provincial council play?

One of the biggest challenges facing our rural people in provinces is the destructive impact of alcohol and drug abuse, serious sexual offences, domestic violence and anti-social behaviour.

Maybe the provincial councils should focus on programmes that will address these problems in villages.

They should work in collaboration with other stakeholders – the Vanua, faith groups, village elders, villagers, parents and the young people – to hold youth and adult education programmes on life’s lessons.

While this can be traced back to parental responsibility, the councils can act as an important influence in the teaching of values that have stood the test of time in our traditional communities.

iTaukei Affairs Permanent Secretary Ratu Meleti Bainimarama spoke on this issue when he opened the Cakaudrove Provincial Council in meeting in Savusavu yesterday.

We should make no mistake – we cannot afford to take this challenge lightly or sweep it under the carpet because of its perceived sensitivity.

Moral integrity has been the mainstay of the traditional community so far but it’s under threat and unless we do something about it, we will continue to slide down the road to pain and misery.

The councils can take the lead role and help justify their continued existence. They don’t want to end up like the Great Council of Chiefs.

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