February 19, 2021

Ilolahia calls for people to act and exercise their civic duty and demand transparency and accountability

The development of citizen budget guidelines is a key milestone that will simplify budget information and encourage engagement to monitor public funds and resources that are allocated  in accordance with the wishes and needs of the people.

Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (PIANGO) through a partnership with UNDP has provided five Pacific Island countries Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu a tool to monitor allocation of the budget that is informed from issues identified from the communities and prioritises development needs.

“This is a crucial time for engaging the public, increasing transparency and building trust, “PIANGO Executive Director Emeline Ilolahia said.

She said accountability and transparency is not only about physical access to documents on public finances, but accessibility where citizens access to information in a language and be more realistic in their expectations.

In 2019, we began this partnership with UNDP on Public Finance Management (PFM) thanks to the support of the European Union.

Of the three key functions of PFM, legislative, parliament representation and monitoring from citizen, media and CSO, our role at PIANGO, according to Ms Ilolahia, is to support Civil Society Organisation through our NLUs to have sustainable inclusive simple public finance for all.

This year, UNDP and PIANGO are entering a new phase of their partnership. As the result of the first phase, Tonga, Fiji and Solomon Islands will now receive direct funding for its Public Finance Management (PFM) project as they progressed into the second phase. “This in itself is a huge achievement as we continue to build on our NLUs to take ownership and lead,” Ms Ilolahia reflected.

She said the lockdown period has provided an opportunity to shift our approaches and structure to the country level and we acknowledged UNDP’s flexibility during this time of crisis to ensure we build our member’s capacity to track taxpayer’s money.

UNDP PFM Manager Marine Destrez said in the aftermath of TC Harold and in the midst of the COVID-19, PIANGO and its five NLUs demonstrated how public finances are at the core of resilience, recovery and inclusion.

This week, a meeting was convened at the Secretariat to reflect and build on lessons learnt from the first phase for future activities at the regional level. There was also a briefing with our NLUs from Tonga, Fiji and Solomon Islands on the basic requirements, priorities and expectations expected when they implement their own PFM project.

 “There is still a lot to learn as the project was co-designed and has required some significant adaptation – notably on how CSOs can approach governments when trying to map public finance management processes.

“This is why convening this discussion today (yesterday) was so important,” Ms Destrez said.

Ms Destrez said by quickly reviewing UNDP’s agreed work plan, PIANGO and its NLUs were able to convened focus discussions in these countries on the impact of COVID-19 and collect feedback on needed budget measures.