Saturday, August 15, 2009
I have heard that currently there is talk about establishing an anti-corruption body in Solomon Islands, so I think it is a very important 'story' to rumble over. I have contributed on this in the www.solomontimes.gov.sb letters to the editor and would like to post it here at my stori-stori corner. My posting at the site goes something like this:
I think the issue of establishing an Anti-corruption Commission is one long over due, and it is interesting to observe that there is talk about it now. However, let us not be too optimistic about it because I think it was two years ago that I heard about a similar call for the establishment of such a body but in the end there was nothing. Remember, elections are around the corner and who knows, history may well repeat itself. And worse, "who na bae like diggim own grave for hem seleva ia"?
Personally, I am an advocater for 'institutional governance' and hence fully supports the idea to establish such a body. As Andrew has rightfully stated in his letter about 'legitimised corruption', unless we start institutionalising and strengthening governance watch-dog instruments we will not be able to curb corruption and be victimised at the benefit of a very few elites.
Such a body will be very helpful to bring stability and sustainability to our society especially in relation to politics and social and fiscal policies of our country. To exemplify the benefits of an anti-corruption body I wish to draw some attention to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which was established in New South Wales, Australia in 1988. Established under law; that is under a bill passed in parliament, the aim of ICAC is to protect the public interest, prevent breaches of public trust and guide the conduct of public officials. Its principal objectives are to promote the integrity and accountability of public administration.
ICAC was established to undertake three (3) main functions, namely (i) to under investigations and expose corrupt conducts, (ii) preventing the occurrence of corruption by giving advice and assistance to build resistance to corruption in the public sector, and (iii) to educate communities and the public sector about corruption and its effects. The most powerful weapon of ICAC obviously is its investigative function, which can be undertaken as a result of a reports from (a) a member of the public, (b) a senior office within the public sector or a local body, (c)parliament and, (d) ICAC in its own initiative. Thus, ICAC is a very powerful body which in effect can hold anybody that is seen or is alleged to be corrupt. The ICAC Act, the law overseeing its operation, is framed in such a way that, though it is a public authority, its operation is independent of outside influence, not even political directives.
For Solomon Islands, I believe the establishment of a similar body is what we need. We need a body that not only is responsible to scrutinise members of parliament but all Solomon Islanders alike. As we all know, corruption exists in levels of life, even at the rural setting and sometimes we are too focussed on our politicians that we tend to forget our own actions. And many times, it is also because of voters' actions and pressure that our politicians resort to corrupt means of getting money to satisfy demands. However, we need an anti-corruption body that has 'teeth to bite' and not a 'toothless fairy' that can only observe, report and make recommendations that may never be implemented by the government. This is one major weakness with many of the governance institutions we have now; they can only report and make recommendations but the government is not obliged by law to comply with their recommendations.
In addition, I suggest that a Code of Ethical Conduct for Members of Parliament be also established and the Leadership Code Commission strengthened so that together with the Anti-Corruption Commission, addressing corruption in our society will be an effective drive. Other institutions such as parliament and NGOs like Transparency Solomon Islands and other pressure groups must also work closely with such a body in order for it to effectively undertake its functions. The people also have an important reporting role to play in the system and hence that must not be understated. Above all, the government must be prepared to provide for and facilitate the administrative, legislative and financial requirements that will accompany the establishment of such a body, such a body would imply the drafting and passing of other prerequisite legislation in parliament.
Also it must be understood that the establishment of an anti-corruption body will not be the answer to all our corruption problems. In Melanesia, corruption is deep-rooted in our society and unless we change how we think, act and do things, as well as our world view we may never succeed in addressing corruption, no matter how much or how far we try.