15 Feb 2023

NGO wants Fiji govt to 'prioritise fighting corruption'

4:00 pm on 15 February 2023

Transparency International is calling on the Fiji government to reconsider its plans for the national anti-corruption agency, the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka is on record as saying the coalition government he leads intends to "phase out FICAC and incorporate its functions to other relevant existing agencies".

Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka called for unity in his first parliamentary speech for the year. Monday 13 Feb 2023

Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka Photo: Fiji Parliament

It was an election promise from Rabuka, but since taking office he has realised that phasing out the body cannot be done without making changes to the 2013 Constitution.

Rabuka has acknowledged his administration will find that hard to do with only a single vote majority in parliament.

In a statement, Transparency International said the Fijian government must "prioritise fighting corruption and address bottlenecks that currently limit FICAC's work."

They also said that under the former government funding had been an issue.

"The previous administration had been reducing funding to FICAC and other relevant public institutions in recent years - this must be reversed. In addition, the 2013 constitution provides for the establishment of an Accountability and Transparency Commission that has also been hindered by too little funding."

Executive Director of Integrity Fiji, Joseph Veramu commended Transparency International's stand on FICAC's position and said the government needs to continue backing the agency.

"We applaud the new government for committing to repeal the many undemocratic laws and measures that previously existed," he said.

"But amidst these efforts, they cannot lose sight of anti-corruption efforts. This includes ensuring FICAC remains operational, retains its independence and has sufficient capacity to root out corruption across Fiji."

Transparency International had also released its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2022, ranking 180 countries and territories based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption.

Fiji ranked at 49, Papua New Guinea is at 130, Vanuatu at 60, while New Zealand was ranked No.2.