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 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.

1 comment:

  1. Deh,

    The issue of corruption is not a new phenomena in the Solomon Islands and more broadly, the Pacific. In Melanesia as you (Derrick) stated, corruption is deep rooted and i want to add, it is more complicated. This prompted institutions such as the Australian National University (ANU) to established the research centre ( State, Society and Governance in Melanesia) to look into issues of governance in Melanesia. As such one of the underlying issues of governance in Melanesia is corruption. Since the centre was first established in 1996, academics and other experts in the region contributed in the research and have published a number of papers and books pertianing to the issue of governance in Melanesia. For your interest, see for publication of papers. Generally, those researchers found that the level of corruption in Melanesia seem to be rampant. For instance, in Vanuatu, in 1993, the President stated that "corruption seem to be gaining ground in the highest rank of our leadership" ( Timakata 1993; Lamour, 1997: 1). The same sentiment was echoed in Papua New Guines and off course in the Solomon Islands. For instance, leaders have been accuse of corruption by accepting bribes for logging licences and so fort. Therefore, the issue of corruption is not new but how it has been practice nowadays perhaps have taken a much different angle and more consolidation. As others have commented in other sites that leaders seem to make laws to legalise their corrupt dealings ( something i have little knowledge about if that is the case we have in the Solomon Islands). However, one thing i am sure for certain is the fact that our leaders seem to gain much from corruption and find it hard to get out of corruption.

    Is corruption easy to address? Larmour ( 1997:1) argued that, "[c]orruption is hard to pin down in principle and practice". It is hard when corruption or act of corruption has been justified as part of tradition. For instance, 'gift giving' is not perceived as corruption but as part of reciprocity. But what happen is 'gift giving' is perceived by the people as 'vote buying'prior to the elections? Is it corruption? Then for sure that would be seen as corruption in practice.

    On the issue of institutional governance as Derrick purported to deal effectively to address corruption in the Solomon Islands, i see that as a good idea and perhaps a way forward.As you also stated that such idea need the full support and commitment by the government to ensure such bodies or institutions required to enforce anti-corruption laws are establised and current institutions such as the Leadership Code Commission (LCC)and the police to have more powers to deal with such cases.However, i am just cynical of the response by the goverment or our leaders of such undertakings. As you ( Derrick) stated, 'who na like fo diggim own grave blo hem seleva ia". But if such attitude vested on our so called 'leaders' then how can we address corruption?

    The government is good at talking about bottom up approach in development, in particular rural development so when we talk about corruption, i suggest we start at the top and take a top down approach. We often hear junior officers in the government are saying, "ae ma boss na duim so mifala folo too". However, one might say, if the boss does then it does not mean that others should suit. I guess the domino theory applies in this case ( not similar to the USA containment policy aganist communist) but in a sense that leaders should be showing the direction, vision and above example of uphoding our nation's motto,that is to lead is to serve. Maybe our leaders need to be re-educated to follow the principle of serving others first that self-service type ia which is often the opposite of what they should be doing.