The Commonwealth Secretariat recently paid for officials from Solomon Islands to attend workshops and courses on topics such as public administration and finance administration. The latest, in May this year, saw three officials travel to Toronto to receive training on internal auditing - an area the Solomon Islands Government recognised as needing strengthening.
4 August 2009
Assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs offers a snapshot of just some of the Secretariat’s support to his remote island nation during a recent pan-Commonwealth summit
Alfred Mane Lovanitila, for the past five and a half years, has been Solomon Islands’ primary contact point with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Responsible for relaying back to his government all the ways in which the Secretariat can support his country’s development, Mr Lovanitila is a kind of a human umbilical cord – a vital link between his people, spread over nearly a thousand Pacific islands, and the 53-member association’s headquarters in London.
Mr Lovanitila was at the headquarters, Marlborough House, late last month alongside 50 of his counterparts – other primary contact points (PCPs) from around the Commonwealth – to review how the Secretariat delivers nearly £30 million in legal and technical assistance each year to member countries.
“The Solomon Islands,” Mr Lovanitila says, “is one of the countries in the Pacific region that has been readily benefiting from assistance from the Commonwealth.” Virtually all communications – forms, letters, faxes and emails – between his government’s ministries and the Secretariat are channelled through his office.
Internal auditing and reconciliation
By way of example, Mr Lovanitila explains how the Secretariat recently paid for officials to attend workshops and courses on topics such as public administration and finance administration. The latest, in May this year, saw three officials travel to Toronto to receive training on internal auditing - an area the Solomon Islands Government recognised as needing strengthening.
Click here for more details
“In the past funds have allegedly been misappropriated – not used as they were intended,” Mr Lovanitila says. “The Office of the Auditor-General has been undertaking external auditing, but it’s like crying over spilt milk - you have already expended those funds.
“The internal auditing is supposed to ensure that mechanisms are put in place so that funds are expended as originally intended. Thereby we can ensure services are delivered to citizens.”
Trust, in a nation which just a few years ago was hit by inter-ethnic violence, is an important commodity. As well as advising on constitutional reforms, monitoring the peace process and supporting the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mr Lovanitila says the Secretariat’s decision to fund an international judge located at the country’s High Court has been vital for reconciliation, helping to dispel accusations of prejudice in the justice system.
Legal and technical assistance
“We needed someone independent, from outside, so they would not be viewed by our people as being biased,” he says. “Law and order was a problem. After the ethnic crisis that we experienced from 1999 to 2003, support to the judiciary and the courts was essential.”
From 22 to 24 July 2009 primary contact points (PCPs) met in London to map out how the Commonwealth Secretariat can best tailor its development assistance to the needs of member countries.
Click here for more details
Two international judges have taken up successive placements in Honiara, the country’s capital. A third judge is soon to be recruited. “The judges have really helped in clearing the stockpile of cases and also in generally improving the administration process,” he adds.
Mr Lovanitila is keen to exploit Secretariat expertise on all manner of additional areas – from governance to trade and economics – to help further develop Solomon Islands. He is especially pleased with the legal and technical assistance provided by the Secretariat to help restart mining and oil operations, he says, which will help boost industrial output and employment.
But with a burgeoning demography of talented young people now passing through college, he is also concerned that opportunities for them are limited. “We need to train people not only in governance,” he points out, “but in business management and other fields.”
Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility
Partly to improve good governance but also to provide improved career opportunities for young people in his country, the Secretariat helped the islands’ Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) get back on its feet after it was closed for six years due to lack of funding. IPAM now runs dozens of courses on topics such as civil servant development, record management and financial management.
Mr Lovanitila is particularly buoyed by the fact that the Secretariat chose to establish a new Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility (CPGF) in Honiara. The facility, set to launch by the end of the year, will help Pacific countries improve good governance through strengthening democratic institutions, anti-corruption institutions, land management registration, as well as improving citizens’ access to information.
“I personally feel the Commonwealth is doing a great job in supporting the development programmes of member countries,” he says.
“Efficient and effective services delivery is part and parcel of the good governance promoted by the Secretariat. Its support to governments to achieve that objective is crucial to ensure peaceful co-existence, sustainable socio-economic development and global justice, peace and stability.”
This report much appreciated - showing how practical help is being provided & interesting learing about a part of the world not really known by me