System reforms must be demand driven, not supply driven

By ILIESA TORA of Nuku’alofa Times.

26 June 2019, Sigatoka, Fiji – Pacific Island countries should reform their Public Finance Management Systems (PFMS) for their own good and not just to meet requirements to access Climate Financing only, the Regional Climate and Disaster Risk Finance Forum in Sigatoka, Fiji heard this morning.

Cook Islands’ Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Garth Henderson said this was important to ensure that PFMS are owned by countries and can be sustained over time.

Speaking as a panellist on ‘Challenges to Assessing and Managing Climate Change and Disaster Risk Finance’, Mr Henderson said the Cook Islands’ PMFS reform was done to ensure that they were able to manage funds within their own country first before trying to reach out to the Climate Finances available.

“That is what we did in the Cook Islands when we started talking about reforming our public finance management system,” Mr Henderson said.

“We decided we needed to do that first and ensure we have a system that will help us manage our finances before we started reaching out to get climate financing.

“We wanted to take ownership of the reforms instead of just doing it to meet the requirements set up.”

The Officer in Charge of Tuvalu’s Planning, Budget and Aid Coordination, Ms Filiake Silaati Tofuola, said the onus must be on the countries to take ownership of what is being done in their own country.

Speaking at the ‘Modalities for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Finance’ panel Ms Tofuola said Tuvalu’s approach has been to be responsible and take ownership of their reforms.

“The reforms have to come from within and not directed by donors who come in and tell us what to do,” she said.

She said this was important because after the immediate funding has expired the system must be able to continue managing funding from any source.

The Climate Finance and Public Finance Management Advisor with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS)/GIZ, Mr Aholotu Palu said having a robust PFMS is critical.

He said this was one of the requirements of donor and funding agencies.

“Having a good finance management system will ensure that funds are being managed locally and will further help in managing bilateral and multilateral funds that flow into the respective countries,” he said.

“The whole idea is to ensure that the system is able to sustain itself beyond the funding timelines.”

Mr Palu, who was a presenter on the ‘Tools to support access, management and reporting of climate change and disaster risk finance’ panel, highlighted that the ideal situation would be to have all the funding coming into a country go into ‘one bucket’.

He said this would help the realistic management of the funds and monitoring to see where funds go, how they are used and whether they reached those who needed it thethem most.

“That is critical in the management and tracking of funds that are being received by any country, whether it be through government, non-government organisations or any other entity,” he added.

Assessments done around the region show that most countries have started reforming their finance management systems.

PIFS Ms Susan Sulu also told the media at a panel discussion on Tuesday that climate funding is released to countries “not on how vulnerable they are but based on their public finance management systems”.

She said focus has been given on how best to assist respective countries in reforming their systems to meet the standards and requirements needed.

Assessments have helped individual countries identify the need within their systems and prioritise action that would address those needs.

She said a good system would ensure accountability and transparency throughout the process.

“That then demands strengthening of coordination amongst the agencies, which includes planning, finance and technical,” she added.

The meeting continues tomorrow at the Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort on Yanuca Island in Sigatoka.

Mr Iliesa Tora’s attendance at the Regional Climate and Disaster Risk Finance meetings was facilitated by Pacific iCLIM: Supporting the Regional Management of Climate Change Information in the Pacific and the Institutional Strengthening for Pacific island countries to Adapt to Climate Change (ISACC) projects. The Regional Climate and Disaster Risk Finance meetings and media training held from 25 – 27 June 2019 in Sigatoka, Fiji is supported by the SPC, PIFS, SPREP, GIZ, USAID and Australian Department for Foreign Affairs & Trade.