PRIME Minister, Rick Hou, has tabled the ‘Anti-Corruption Bill 2017’ in Parliament yesterday after it was withdrawn last year by his former predecessor, Manasseh Sogavare.
The Bill was the flagship of the former Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) government’s anti-corruption policies and aimed to establish the framework for an independent commission against corruption.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Hou, said it was a history day for Solomon Islands people because the desired to see government fight against corruption.
Mr Hou said the current Bill is broad base because it targets the public officers and the private sectors including churches, schools and other organisations.
“I would like to take exception to the common definition of corruption as being, the abuse of public office for private gain.
“I have a problem with this narrow definition,” he said.
“First, the abuse of public office can only occur if the public official occupying that office has abused the power given to that office.
“Second, it takes two, not one, for a corruption action to occur and surely the public official who has accept, solicit, or extort a bribe must be punished for being a party to the corrupt act,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Hou said it is very sad to see that this evil culture is widespread and prevalent in the Church today.
“It is all church-ran organisations, including schools.
“And I have say that my only regret is that these practices are mostly covered up,” he added.
However, Mr Hou said the good news is that through this Bill, with an amendment at Clause 67, it should bring private sector organisations, and civil society groups, including churches, being roped in as well.
“So this Bill is in all of our interests – the public interest of this country,” he said.
Mr Hou said ultimately, the public official will be held accountable for abusing the public office he/she holds for private gain.
“But if we really want to be effective in the fight against corruption the private sector, civil society organisations including religious bodies and other interest groups must be held accountable as well when hawking bribery to public officials for a favour, advantages, or other benefits.
“It makes sense therefore that when addressing corruption we must start from the public sector, but this fight must ultimately be inclusive of the non-government sectors,” he added.
Parliament continues today.
By EDDIE OSIFELO