Solomons PM faces big task on corruption
Transparency Solomon Islands says the country's Prime Minister has a lot of work to do if he is to live up to his promise to tackle corruption.
Transparency Solomon Islands says the country's Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has a lot of work to do if he is to live up to his promise to tackle corruption.
In his policy announcement on Tuesday, Mr Sogavare promised to implement a range of legislation and strategies to combat corruption, including establishing and Independent Commission against Corruption.
But a board member for Transparency Solomon Islands, Tony Hughes, says many people have made similar promises before, and it will take far more than establishing a commission to combat corruption in Solomon Islands.
TONY HUGHES: It's long overdue, but also we're not sure the government has thought through all the implications. So we're very keen to get involved in this with the government, we've given it a lot of thought and through our membership with Transparency International we've got a lot of connections around the world with other ICACs. We want to be involved, we want to make sure that it's practical, that it works, and does make a difference. I think the government and people around the government may have just grasped at this as being a good thing to say at this time without having quite thought about how they're going to do it, so we want to be involved in that.
JAMIE TAHANA: So what do you mean by 'hasn't thought through the implications'?
TH: Well you would know that being anti-corruption is a good thing for a government now in Solomon Islands, there's been a lot of concern about the many levels and forms of corruption permeating the public sector here and so an incoming government has naturally felt that it must embrace this as one of its policy aims. The corruption is so pervasive, it runs through so many parts of the public sector and it becomes so well established that it's not just a matter of setting up an ICAC, it's a matter of changing the way a lot of people have got used to behaving, so that's what I mean by that.
JT: Like you say, it's in many areas and many administrations have promised to come down on corruption, but still, in the public sector and in the parliament there's many of the same faces. What kind of challenge would Mr Sogavare have implementing this?
TH: The obvious one; that it's very easy to make policy statements and draft resounding documents which go down very well over the media and so on, and then as the weeks go by and the months go by nothing happens. We've been there before, we've had governments making statements like that before and then nothing happens because attitudes to work, attitudes to public money and so on are now deeply ingrained. And there are also lots of people in a position to cover up their tracks so it's got to be well organised, it's got to be well driven if it's going to be effective. It's not easy at all -- making the statements is easy, that's the phase we're in at the moment, making them have an impact, that will be different and we're well aware of that.
JT: And as you said, TSI wants to get involved in this, how do you imagine changing the attitude as much as anything in the Solomon Islands towards corruption?
TH: Well what the legislation will look like is one thing, but it's not just that; the emphasis tends to be on setting up an independent commission against corruption, but that will deal with relatively high profile and formally defined corrupt acts and, all going well, it will find ways of prosecuting and punishing people who've done those things. But the attitude to corruption is very pervasive with examples from the top of senior people committing corrupt acts over the last maybe,10-15 years it's become very pervasive in the public sector. And that's not going to be dealt with by ICAC, you can't prosecute all those people. They've got to be sacked, disciplined, sorted out, properly managed, reorganised in government departments. So that's really a public service exercise of quite a big scale to change the way people behave. The public are well aware of this, and that's why most people in the public, I think, who see these high-profile statements just put them aside or laugh when they hear it. They've heard it before and nothing happens. It's a very big task and we want to make sure that something happens this time, but it's not going to be easy.
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