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Connecting People and Ideas for Integrated Development

SUNY/CID collaborates with Monash University Governance Research UnitMezey, Baskin, Coghill, Kinyondo

SUNY/CID Senior Associate Mark Baskin and Senior Fellow Michael Mezey recently participated in a two-day workshop on “Planning Research into Capacity Building for CDF Allocations &/or Spending Decisions” at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, that concluded with an agreement for future collaboration that will lead to funding for further research on and work with CDFs.

CDFs (constituency development funds) have been compared to  versions of the earmarks employed by the U.S. Congress for the past 200 years, yet in fact there is significant variation among these funds many of which are more formal and institutionalized that what has often been dubbed “pork”. CDFs dedicate public money to benefit parliamentary constituencies through allocations and/or spending decisions influenced by Members of Parliament. Since 1990, more than 20 emerging democratic governments have adopted CDFs and many others are preparing legislation to initiate them. SUNY/CID is currently compiling the research it has completed into CDFs over the past 2 years, which will soon be published by an academic press. The workshop in Monash explicitly built on this research. 

The March workshop was hosted by Monash Associate Professor of Management the Hon. Ken Coghill, former Speaker of the Victoria State Parliament. Among the participants were the Hon Jevakumar Deveraj,  MP from Malaysia;  Ms. Moveta Munroe, Director of the CDF Programme Unit in the Government of Jamaica; the Hon. Thilanga Sumanthipala, MP from Sri Lanka; Mr. Mahmuzar Rahman, Secretary-in-Charge of the Parliament of Bangladesh; the Hon. Maria Terezinha Viegas, MP from the Parliament of East Timor; Ms. Sherry Amaranto, the Executive Director of the Office of the Speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives; the Hon. Kevin Rizzoli, former Speaker of the New South Wales (Australia) Parliament; and Mr. Abel Kinyondo of Monash University and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. 

Professor Mezey opened the workshop building on his distinguished research that focuses on the relationships among policy making, representation and constituency service. He differentiated between the traditions of research and practice among Americans, Europeans, and individuals from developing countries and developed the argument that legislatures may be increasingly ill-equipped to participate in policy making as it becomes increasingly technical in nature than in activities related to constituencies. Dr. Baskin followed by describing SUNY/CID’s past research and collaboration with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) that led to the drafting of Principles of CDF Operations in June 2011. He presented a survey of constituency development funds in 19 developing countries that focused on the extent to which they have been institutionalized, MPs are involvement in decision making on CDFs, and the extent to which they are transparent and administratively accountable.   

MPs and staffers then made presentations on the operations of CDFs in their countries with a goal of “learning from each other” and “identifying a research agenda” generating excellent discussion. It concluded that there is great variation in CDFs in the amounts allocated, the degree of transparency, and the quality of inter-governmental coordination. There was good discussion on: the popularity of legislators depending on their capacity to deliver tangible benefits to constituencies; the diverse roles such funds could play; different models of community contribution to such funds; different approaches to administrative coordination for service delivery from these funds; and how such funds could provide a bridge between national and local governments, and executive and legislative branches.   

Following the workshop, Professors Baskin and Mezey worked closely with the Monash Governance Research team to outline a proposal for donors in developed and developing countries and in continuing collaboration with the CPA and other multilateral institutions to continue with a deeper comparative analysis of how such funds function and the ways in which the employment of funds can be governed by universally accepted principles of good governance.  The Hon. Professor Coghill will visit SUNY/CID in the autumn of 2012 to continue with this work. 

Posted April 17, 2012