If Government is serious about stopping corruption, why reject call for Anti Corruption Tribunal?

Kiribati might be one of the smallest islands in the Pacific and one of the worst affected by sea level rise and climate change but its leaders’ decision to host the Pacific Regional Conference on Anti-Corruption is significant.

At a time when the region – and the world for that matter – is confronted by growing and worsening crises and challenges that demand urgent action and serious attention, the scourge of corruption and the need to deal with it could so easily be ignored and buried.

But here we have Kiribati, one the tiniest dots on the world map, leading the fight against corruption, which is bold and admirable. For all their problems in relation to climate calamities, maybe the President of the Republic of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, knows something most people don’t.

Indeed, while the world is concerned about Kiribati disappearing into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps Mr. Maamau sees corruption as a far more serious problem threatening to sink us all. And rightly so.

With climate change comes truckloads of money in the millions. Without integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance, these millions remain vulnerable to abuse, mismanagement and corruption. It has happened.

But it’s not just climate change funding. Take international funding for any issue – and we are talking about millions and billions - and you can easily draw parallels.

Corruption and corrupt officials know no barriers, they don’t care. Which is why it is imperative we insist on the principles of integrity, accountability, transparency and good governance. It is the only way to respond to nullify the devastating impact of abuse, misuse and corruption.

The cost of corruption is enormous. Global statistics show that corruption costs at least US$2.6 trillion a year – or five per cent of global gross domestic product. They estimate that businesses and individuals pay more than US$1 trillion in bribes annually.

And how does this impact everyone?

The Secretary General of the United Nations summed it up really well. Said he: “(Corruption) robs societies of schools, hospitals and other vital services, drives away foreign investment and strips nations of their natural resources. It undermines the rule of law and abets crimes such as the illicit trafficking of people, drugs and arms.”

Needless to say corruption begets more corruption. It thrives when good men decide to be silent and do nothing about it.

Now some people will argue that conferences such as the one held in Kiribati, where leaders just talk are a waste of time, because they merely do it to tick the boxes and collect their allowances. That is true to an extent.

But we should not downplay the importance of talking about an issue, especially difficult issues like corruption. It’s a lot better than ignoring them.

Which is why we applaud Kiribati’s leadership in reviving regional efforts to deal with an issue, which not many leaders are keen to talk about.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, was among the leaders at the conference this week. Speaking during the plenary, he provided food for thought in relation to corruption from Samoa’s experience. In the newspaper you are reading today, we are reprinting his address verbatim because we believe the comments and the commitments he makes in there about upholding the values of integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance are so critical. Coming from the leader of this country, they inspire hope.

 “Like natural disasters and health epidemics, corruption, if allowed to flourish would wreak great havoc and misery,” Tuilaepa said.

We couldn’t agree more. The trouble is exposing such corruption and ensuring the perpetrators are held accountable, especially at a time when the means of committing corruption are increasingly complex and complicated. What this calls for are investigators and anti-corruption officials who are equally intelligent and smart to expose such actions and do what needs to be done.

This, however, requires political will to ensure it happens. It also requires leaders and politicians to walk the talk instead of just talking about it as a public relations exercise.

We encourage you to read Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s address. For instance, he said: “In Samoa’s Public Service today, preventative measures include regular reminders to public officials not to accept money from the public, as well as awareness messages on television and radio to the public not to give officials money for the delivery of government work and services, or to enable a person to ‘jump the queue’ to obtain priority consideration in a government program.

 “Transgressions would be investigated as breaches of the official code of conduct and extending to criminal charges as warranted.”

He adds: “A transparent and vigorously enforced tender process is in place to award contracts for medium and large-scale government projects.”

He said a lot more but this is enough for the purpose of this piece today.

We want you to remember what he is saying. Why? You have a responsibility to hold our leaders to account in connection to such promises.

Is there corruption in Samoa? Of course.

Look at what the Prime Minister highlighted in his speech. But let’s not kid ourselves here; that is merely the tip of the iceberg. We know there is a lot more.

In fact, this has been proven over and over again by reports from the Audit Office as well as the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C). These taxpayer-funded reports, which had been tabled before Parliament, has highlighted a number of cases of abuse of power, misuse in authority among the public service. We are talking about cases of forgery, fraud and widespread abuse of public resources. Corruption.

What is being done about it? And what is the point of all these reports if they are ignored and buried?

We repeat; it is wonderful to read Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s views about corruption. But why then has his Government continued to ignore and resist calls for the establishment of an Anti Corruption Tribunal?

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!




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