Corruption hurts innocent people

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 November 2016, 12:00AM

It’s well overdue but better late than never. 

You see the idea that Members of Parliament have started a conversation about Samoa ratifying the UN Convention against Corruption (U.N.C.A.C) is a positive development. 

The Convention by the way is an international tool designed to prevent acts of corruption, including domestic and foreign bribery, embezzlement, trading in influence, money laundering and more. In a nutshell, the Convention is all about effective ways to deal with this rot called corruption. 

As of today, U.N.C.A.C has been ratified by 178 countries worldwide but Samoa is not one of them. For this reason, for some time now, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and United Nations Develop Programme (U.N.D.P.) have been leading the discussion with the hope that Samoa will join. 

On Friday at the Taumeasina Island Resort, Members of Parliament had the opportunity to be informed and express their opinions. The session was facilitated by the Chair of Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (G.O.P.A.C) Oceania, John Hyde. 

Now somewhere during the discussions, a suggestion was made for Samoa to join G.O.P.A.C, without paying a fee, which received some interesting views.

Leading the charge was none other than former Finance Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, who did not bat an eyelid in defining what corruption is. 

“That is a conflict of interest,” he pointed out, “it’s corruption.”

Faumuina went on to emphasise that in a small island like Samoa everyone is related and the context of corruption differs. 

 “Because Samoa is a family we cannot separate them from us,” said Faumuina. 

“In that context of corruption – it means we are not allowed to make laws in Parliament because we are all related. 

“How can you define corruption in the context of counter tradition and belief of Christianity?” 

The M.P. for Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong suggested that what is defined as corruption should be categorised on different levels from low to extreme. He said a different basket for different levels of corruption should be done instead of labeling everyone as being part of such corruption. 

The M.P. for Vaisigano No. 1, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, on the other hand wanted said there is corruption everywhere.

 “Look at the American election two days ago. Some $25million was donated by big companies to the campaign,” he said. “They buy their own safety and I find it very insulting. It’s not healthy that big economies and countries are trying to sell this to us and yet they openly practice it.” 

The reaction from the Members of Parliament is typical, isn’t it?

Ladies and gentlemen, as long as our government and Members of Parliament continue to deny the existence of corruption, the rot will continue to grow. Crime will keep on breeding crime and even more crime. It’s going to be a very sad future.

The words to think about as we go to church today are love and compassion.

The truth is that we are living in difficult times where many families are struggling through poverty, hardship and money woes. Their struggles are signs of the time.

We say this because in Samoa today, it’s undeniable that many families are unacceptably poor. Whereas the cost of living continues to skyrocket, their earning power has been severely reduced.

Government officials on the other hand – especially Cabinet Ministers, Associate Ministers and senior public servants – seem to be thriving.

While they’re enjoying the windfall of benefits and perks that come with their public offices – many of them with private business interests seem to be doing exceptionally well.

Cases of conflicts of interest in this country are so rife and some people just don’t care. They are so blatant.

What does that have to do with the poor people of this country and those families who cannot afford exam fees?

Remember this, corruption hurts the most vulnerable members of the community. In other words, corruption affects the poor directly since it increases the price for public services such as education so that the poor – who are severely disadvantaged by the lack of economic growth – are unable to cope with it. 

Lastly, perhaps someone should remind Members of Parliament that 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.

Nothing has been done. 

Today in paradise, the people implicated are running around, living their lives without a care in the world. And in some cases now having the nerve to try to define to us what corruption is. 

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 November 2016, 12:00AM

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