Was the 2016 Anti-Corruption day conveniently forgotten in paradise?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa ,

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so it seemed that most countries remembered International Anti Corruption day – including other Pacific neighbours - but Samoa. 

Which is strange given that in this country today, we make a song and dance about all other kinds of days. Heck we even had a parade to commemorate World Toilet day. 

Nothing wrong with that of course but then you would think that someone in the government who are forever travelling to these international meetings picking up these international tunes we seem to be singing blindly would even remember the day dedicated to eliminating all forms of corruption.

And yet here in paradise on Friday 9th December 2016, which is dedicated as “International Anti-Corruption Day 2016,” no one remembered. Not a beep about it at all, nada. 

Which is interesting really because the day is promoted by the United Nations, that has such a strong presence in Samoa. This year, the UN commemorated with the Theme: “United against corruption for development, peace and security.”

Wonderful stuff, isn’t it?

According to the United Nations, “every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global G.D.P.” 

“In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance,” the UN says.

Naturally, the UN concludes that “corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies.”

“No country, region or community is immune. This year U.N.O.D.C and U.N.D.P have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.”

“The 2016 joint international campaign focuses on corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.Gs).”

We recall the big publicity given to the launch of the S.D.Gs but if corruption is as they say “one of the biggest impediments” to achieving them, why is not anybody bothered by the lack of acknowledgement in Samoa of such an important day?

At Transparency International, it had the following offering for Anti-Corruption Day. This is why such a day matters. This is why in Samoa, it should have at least been acknowledged.

“People are dying because money meant for health care is stolen,” Transparency International says. “The proceeds of large-scale corruption laundered in luxury property. Women and girls subjected to sexual demands in return for passing exams.” 

“Democracy undermined by money in politics. Factory workers losing their lives when unsafe buildings certified by unscrupulous inspectors collapse. Hard earned tax payer money misappropriated. 

“Directly or indirectly, rich or poor, male or female, all of us are affected by corruption.”

Closer to home, not too long ago, the Controller and Auditor General uncovered instances of unbridled corruption and mismanagement in some government offices. The issues were highlighted in not one, not two but at least three reports tabled with Parliament.

These reports were referred to what’s called the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C). They investigated the claims, costing taxpayers lots of money and they were required to report back to Parliament with their findings.

In the end, the O.P.C, a group made up of highly qualified accountants, lawyers and other respected professions, confirmed the findings of the Controller and Auditor General. 

They found that there existed corrupt practices among some public servants and there were also instances where some had colluded to defraud taxpayers. To remedy the problem, the Committee recommended taking legal action against the individuals implicated.

Well, that didn’t happen, obviously. The report was tabled and the government brushed it aside in its response. Neither the report nor the government’s response was the subject of an open debate as Members of Parliament should have done and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today in paradise, the people implicated are running around, living their lives without a care in the world. Outside Parliament though, a senior Member of Parliament’s response about corruption really baffled the mind at the time. It still does.

Listen: “The palagi corruption is different from Samoa corruption. Compared with bigger countries, any corruption in Samoa is tiny.”

 “The corruption that happened in the United States with its financial crisis spread out to other countries affecting us and other countries in the world. But if there’s corruption in Samoa, it doesn’t affect American Samoa, it’s domestic for us.”

Wow! So there is palagi corruption and Samoan corruption? And Samoa’s corruption is domestic what? Hogwash. A humungous load of hogwash! Could this be why Anti-Corruption day this year was conveniently forgotten?

We don’t need to remind you about the scourge of corruption. 

The good news according to Transparency International is that it does not have to be this way. All of us also have the power to fight corruption.

“Imagine a future where people throughout the world act together to reject corruption. Together we can and will bring about real change,” Transparency International says. “This is what you can do in your daily life, in your place of work, in schools, hospitals and places of worship to be part of this change:

• Do not pay bribes

• Do not seek bribes

• Work with others to campaign against corruption

• Speak out on corruption and report on abuse

• Only support candidates for public office who say no to corruption and demonstrate transparency, accountability and integrity

And lastly, since today is a Sunday, honesty is the best policy. Even if you get away with corruption because you have not been caught, God is watching. He knows and you will get your dues in good time.

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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