ON 9th of December 2015 during the marking of the International Anti-Corruption Day the nation, applauded as they listened to our Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, declared to the nation his government’s commitment to bring about various legislative reforms to tackle corruption within the public sector, the private sector and in any environment where there is corruption in his key note address to open the activities of the day.
Together with him on the stage were some of his Ministers, the Leader of Official Opposition, and the Leader of the Independent Group, the Speaker of Parliament, the Clerk to Parliament and other dignitaries in solidarity and of the view that corruption is a problem and needs to be dealt with.
In his keynote address the Prime Minister declared to the nation and I quote “Let me first of all thanks the organisers - UNDP, Transparency Solomon Islands, the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, various Government agencies including my very own office- for organising today’s event allowing us and the whole country to refocus our attention on the problem of corruption and what we should do about it” end of quote.
He further declared to the public and nation his government’s commitment to thefollowing Bills to be either completed for tabling in parliament or be tabled in parliament come 2016.
He told the nation and I quote “As your Prime Minister I want all of us, who are in the fight against corruption, to continuously set our goals including our goals for 2016 in the fight against corruption. Your Government, of which I represent today, has an ambitious agenda in the fight against corruption for the year 2016.
It is opportune now that I publicly announce the DCC Government’s agenda for 2016 in the fight against corruption.
1. Anti-Corruption Bill
Our top priority for the first quarter of 2016 is to enact the Anti-Corruption Bill. This will be the first comprehensive legislation consolidating old and new offences of corruption with revised levels of penalties. The Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption (SIICAC) will be established by way of this law.
2. The Integrity Whistle Blower Bill
The second highest priority is to introduce the Integrity Whistle Blower Bill to Parliament for enactment during the first quarter of 2016. This new legislation will primarily protect any person who report in good faith suspected act of corruption, maladministration and/or improper conduct of officials, from discrimination and retaliatory actions.
3. The Ombudsman (Special Provisions) Bill
Another high priority for Government is for the new Ombudsman (Special Provisions) Bill to be enacted by Parliament prior to mid-year 2016. In the new Ombudsman Act the powers of the Ombudsman have been re-emphasised and a requirement that the finding by the Ombudsman must be acted upon without delay, will now be part of the new Act.
4. The Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Bill
Another high priority of Government is for Parliament to enact the new Leadership Code Bill prior to mid-2016. The new Leadership Code Act will clarify which official in the public sector it will concentrate on given its overlap in jurisdiction with that of the Ombudsman. The new Act will also establish the Leadership Tribunal to hear cases of misconduct in offices.
5. The National and Provincial Election (Further Provisions) Bill
The National and Provincial Election (Further Provisions) Bill is another top priority of Government for 2016. Work on this new election Bill has already begun from the beginning of this year and Government intend for Parliament to enact this new law by mid-2016. The new election Act will provide for the new election system in which the 2018 General Election will be conduct under. A new anti-defection measure will also be provided by way of this new Act.
6. The Freedom of Information Bill
The Freedom of Information Bill is another top priority of Government. This is a Bill that will promote and exert transparency measures making available government information for public consumption as well as the right of Solomon Islanders to have access to official information from any government agency. It is our intention that this Bill is enacted by Parliament towards the end of 2016.
7. Review of the Political Parties Integrity Act 2014
It is a top priority of Government to re-examine the current Political Parties Integrity Act with the view to strengthen it based on the experience of the 2014 General Election and the continuing behaviours of political parties and their members. Work on this review has already begun this year and Government should be receiving a comprehensive report on this review by early next year” end of quote.
Transparency Solomon Island as it monitored the implementation of this commitment commends the Prime Minister and his government in the completion of the first two Bills while working on the other Bills.
The citizens of this country and general public were elated when the first two Bills were tabled in Parliament for first reading, but that is how far it went in the most recent parliament sitting.
There were a number of reasons given ranging from inadequate consultation to lack of support to disunity within the government grouping.
In the assessment of reasons given for the delay in tabling the Anti-Corruption and the Whistleblowers Bills Transparency Solomon Islands commends the Leaders of the Official Opposition Group and Independent Group for their continued support for the Bills and of course the Prime Minister for the Billboards on the East and West and middle of our Highway still announcing and reminding the people of this country that its number one agenda in the development of this country is to fight corruption.
The Billboards have not been taken down and we see this as an indication of assurance to this country that the Bills will be tabled for second and third reading when parliament meets again this year.
On this note Transparency Solomon Islands urges the Prime Minister and his government to table the Bills for their second reading once the parliament meets again and not to delay.
Every day we get witnesses and victims of corruption come and share the corrupt conducts that they have witnessed and have been victims of.
They are however not willing to take the next step, because there is no legislation to protect them and they see the court fees in our system as the biggest deterrent tohold corrupt persons accountable.
The passing of these various Bills announced by the Prime Minister will create conducive environment for them to play their part in the fight against corruption.
Our work is to empower Solomon Islands citizens to hold their governments and other institutions accountable to ensure public resources are well managed, public services are improved, and national integrity systems are strengthened.
As a package in the fight against corruption these various pieces of legislation amongst others will maintain and protect civil society space, voice, and activism in the fight against corruption and on issues of national concern and interest, important to our democracy.
Whilst the motion of Sine Die has passed and the parliament now adjourned without these two bills going into second and third reading, we urge the government to pass these two Bills in its next sitting.
In its analysis and examination of the anti-corruption strategy of the government, Transparency Solomon Islands believes that the strategy is a whole package and not a standalone one.
There is connectivity between these proposed legislations and commends the government for its insightfulness.
However in our reading of this package needs these two pieces of legislation [anti-corruption and whistleblowers] to be enacted first for the strategy to work.
We want to know what you think about this issue.
Call TSI on 28319.
From TRANSPARENCY SOLOMON ISLANDS