Committee put "conditional freeze" on accounts

All development fund accounts in the districts and provinces have been frozen as of today by a Committee to protect funds from being mismanaged during the 2017 National Election period.

A vetting committee comprising the Ombudsman Commission, Department of Finance and the Department of Rural Development and Implementation has been put in place to protect funds.  

Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick today issued a direction under section 27 (4) of the Constitution against development funds held in the provinces and districts.

Under the direction, all development funds; District and Provincial Service Improvement funds will not be released unless clearance has been sought from the committee and compliance under the Finance Management Act is met.

With the issue of writs done today, the Ombudsman Commission is mindful of election related laws under the Organic Law on National and Local Government elections, especially section 208 which relates to bribery and inducements during the campaign period.

A freeze on development accounts is a way of protecting sitting members from accessing and using the funds for development during this time, which would be seen as bribery. It is also in place to protect monies from being mismanaged. 

The direction will be in place commencing today, and will run through to September 30. Failure to adhere to the directions will be seen as a breach and may result in prosecution. 

The Ombudsman Commission has released such directions before; the first was issued in the 2002 General Elections where all operational and development funds accounts were completely frozen during the election period.

In 2012, a conditional freeze was put in place, where only developmental accounts were frozen. This year, that conditional freeze to accounts is being imposed again.

Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick explained this is not to stop development but to ensure funds are put to its intended purposes and expects cooperation from all District Development Authorities, Provincial and District Administrators and respective Joint Provincial Planning and Budget Priorities Committee.

Ombudsman Richard Pagen said only development funds are frozen and not operational funds because that would mean utility services in the provinces and districts will be affected

He also made a request for all district funds to be returned to the development accounts and not remain in operational accounts. 

Sally Pokiton