‘What corruption? We’re transparent’
Caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has scoffed at calls to establish an Anti Corruption Tribunal to address allegations of corruption, abuse of power and collusion within certain government bodies.
“With the call by these people to set up an Anti Corruption Tribunal, what corruption (are you referring to) when there are already ways of dealing with it?” Tuilaepa said.
“The government is not interfering with anything. Everything is transparent and in accordance with the principles of good governance. With this government, everything is being brought to the fore so we are accountable.
“So I don't know where they keep coming up with this idea, raising doubts about the government and yet the government is continuing to perform its duties under the principles of good governance it is guided by.”
The Prime Minister made the comments in response to a renewed call by the Tautua Samoa Party to establish an Anti Corruption Tribunal.
Initially made by the Shadow Minister of Finance, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, the deputy leader of the Tautua Party, Aeau Peniamina Leavai, revived the call last week, saying the country needs a body to address corruption.
The Faleaupo M.P. said the findings of the Controller and Chief Auditor’s reports as well as the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C) investigation point to an apparent need for a body to act on the findings. Aeau said an Anti Corruption Tribunal would ensure that the government is accountable and transparent.
But Tuilaepa said the Tautua Party’s insistence on such a tribunal shows they don't understand the system.
“I think they’ve forgotten that there is a clause in the law that allows Cabinet to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate any matter where corruption is suspected,” the Prime Minister responded.
For example, Tuilaepa pointed to the Commissions of Inquiry established to investigate claims about corruption at Tafa’igata Prison.
The claims were initially raised in what were infamously referred to as “ghost letters”. “So there is already a system where we investigate those who are suspected of corruption.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa also referred to checks and balances in the government machinery.
“Secondly, we already have government auditors. Their job is to follow up on (how) finances (are used within government bodies) using internationally accepted accounting standards.
“There is also a Chief Auditor and an External Auditor to check their work.”
According to Tuilaepa, it’s from this system where the report about the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C) emerged from which caused so much controversy last year. The report raised allegations of corrupt practices and widespread mismanagement within the corporation.
An investigation carried out by the Officers of Parliament Committee confirmed the allegations and recommended legal action against the alleged offenders.
“It was a report submitted by our Chief Auditor (that started all that),” Tuilaepa said. “So there is another way there, where we can catch people who are crooked.” The Prime Minister also spoke about the role of the Police.
“What other corrupt governments do is that they interfere with the Police work so that they cannot press charges. There is nothing like that happening here.”
The Prime Minister revisited Samoa’s political assassination to highlight his point. “Everyone knows that it was during the administration of the H.R.P.P where Luagalau (Levaula Kamu) was assassinated,” he said. “What happened? Was that hidden? That was a major court case. The government didn't stop it and tried to put a lid on it.
“The Police carried out an investigation, they found Eletise, charged him along with the Minister who was immediately terminated from Cabinet. They, and a Member of Parliament were taken to Tafa’igata where they stayed. The government did not interfere.”
Tuilaepa maintained that his government is transparent and it does not interfere with the system.
“It seems to me that these people don't understand the system,” he said about the Tautua Samoa Party. “There are already ways to deal with these things.” The Prime Minister also pointed to the recent separation of the National Prosecution Office from the Attorney General’s Office.
“The Attorney General represents the government which includes the Head of State, the Prime Minister and Cabinet. What is happening now is that we have separated the Attorney General’s Office from the National Prosecution Office.
“The reason for that is because under the old system, there existed a reason to doubt the decisions (made by the Attorney General). “But now the National Prosecution Office is an independent body so the government doesn't interfere with any charges that needs to be laid.”
Tuilaepa said Members of Parliament and senior H.R.P.P members are not immune as no one is above the law.
“Even my Associate Minister, Peseta (Vaifou Tevaga) has been charged. His court hearing is continuing. The government has not interfered with that at all even though the Speaker of Parliament is also charged (in the same case).”
The Prime Minister also reminded about the former Associate Minister and M.P. for Sagaga le Usoga, Muagututagata Peter Ah Him, who was charged and found guilty.
“He resigned from Parliament,” Tuilaepa said.
“My point is that with the call by these people to set up an Anti Corruption Tribunal, what corruption (are you referring to) when there are already ways of dealing with it?
“The government is not interfering with anything. Everything is transparent in accordance with the principles of good governance.”