Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare: Time to Act Agressively, Quickly on Corruption

Below is the full text of remarks Solomon Islands Prime Mininster Manasseh Sogavare delivered September 8, 2016,  at a workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands, to develop a national anticorruption strategy for the country 

Hon Premiers and your delegations, Members of the Steering Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, Representatives of the diplomatic corps and international organisations, senior officials from our integrity institutions and various institutions of our Government, representatives of our business community from the private sector, representatives from our civil society based organisations, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning to you all.

Let me say at the outset how pleased I am to see many of you attending this national workshop which undoubtedly, you would now know, is a precursor-event to the development and formulation of our country’s first ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy.

I had wanted to address you and the public on the subject matter of “our fight against corruption”, and I am pleased that this opportunity has come up. Like many of you, I am personally convinced that the fight against corruption is not just a fight by Government alone, it is a fight by all stakeholders. It is a fight that must be pursued by all of us collectively.

Your presence here today speaks volume of the importance you attached to the fight against corruption. Indeed, your determination is consistent with the overwhelming wishes of our people that something must be done about corruption.

The more than a decade long consultation on the Federal Constitution and the recent nationwide consultation on political integrity and stability issues concluded that our people want the problem of corruption to be addressed seriously.

Undoubtedly, when there is an overwhelming desire by the people, when there is a collective pressure by the people, for Government to do something about a particular matter, it is because the people are aggrieved by the existence of a problem. Inevitably, we, as public leaders, need to be responsive to the wishes of our people so we can bring relief and entrench a belief in our people that the problem they face will go away.

I do not believe no one present here today do not know about the consequences of corruption and its effect on the private sector; the engine of growth of our economy. The effect of corruption on the Government in terms of loss revenue and loss of trust and confidence in public institutions.  And the effect of corruption on the people of our country, whether they are in the urban areas or in the villages, in terms of loss opportunities to better their wellbeing.

To this day, we can with confidence summarily say that corruption in Solomon Islands has significantly depleted opportunities for jobs in our increasing labour force. It has hold back growth. It has trapped the majority of the people in poverty. It has certainly trapped the country in its status as a Least Developing Country. It has steal vital resources from our schools and hospitals, and it has certainly undermined our security, especially when increasing perceived corruption makes people more susceptible to the poisonous ideology of extremists.

I must admit that it is hard for me, as public leader and a Solomon Islander, to accept the fact that our country is being labelled as one of the most corrupt countries in the Pacific and the world at large. But looking through the evidence, not only from the global Corruption Perception Index but also from surveys carried out by multi-lateral financial institutions, the level of perceived corruption in our country can best be described as breathtaking.

The sheer scale of perceived corruption in our country, compared to the rest of the world, is worrying and I am certain that this scale will get worse if we continue to do nothing about corruption.

Our officials will be providing these evidences in their presentation in the course of today and tomorrow. But I would like you to listen carefully to the evidence and consider the practical meaning of where we are now in terms of corruption compared to the rest of the world. In other words:

If international studies are saying that every year one in four people around the world pay a bribe to access public services. And a family spends on average 14% of its income on bribes for basic services to which they are already entitled – including water, medicine and education.

What about us then in Solomon Islands? If the evidence we are going to show you is saying that the percentage of our people who pay a bribe, is higher than the world average, does this mean that in our country one in every four people pay a bribe to access public service? Or are our families spending an average of 14% of their income, or thereabout, to access public services of whatever kind?

 I will let you make up your own conclusion from the evidence. But to me personally, the evidence is clearly indicating that we are not far off from the world average if not worse!

I am confident that we are in agreement that the problem of corruption in our country is colossal. Evidently, corruption is imposing a huge tax on investment. It is stifling the creation of new businesses. It is distorting market operations in our economy to the point that it is making it difficult to achieve optimal and sustainable economic development. The negative impact of corruption on the low income earners is also corrosively affecting the moral fabric of our society.

Clearly, we ought to do something about corruption, and to do it quickly and aggressively with high impact.

For too long it has been easy for those in authority to ignore or pretend not to know what is going on. For too long, we have undermined the need to take concrete actions against corruption by inconsistencies and double standards, bureaucratic muddling, populist rhetoric and over simplistic assessments and actions.

It is now irrelevant for us to continuously say, “Corruption is bad; more should be done to stop it”. This dumbing down of the issue allows for easy stereotyping and ready moral judgement, but it doesn’t fix the problem. It also does not help to explain why there appears to have been such a marked increase in the scale, scope and sophistication of corruption in recent years.

The way corruption is negatively affecting our economic development potential and the wellbeing of our people, wheeling therefrom wastages in productive resources, calls for an unprecedented level of intervention to stop corruption.

I do recognise that it is high time for Government to take a strong leadership in the fight against corruption. But I would be the first person to admit that Government needs you in the private sector, you in civil society organisations and you our development partners, to work with Government to collectively and effectively fight against corruption.

We need to work with you our development partners, not just for the provision of development assistance, but in recognition of the fact that the fight against corruption is not just a fight by Solomon Islands. This is truly a global problem and all like-minded countries must fight this fight in a collaborative manner. As the Panama Papers show, corruption is truly a global challenge.

The machinery of developing and implementing the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, where the partnership between the private sector, civil society, development partners and Government is consolidated, is precisely the national approach I want us to take in the fight against corruption. We have articulated this approach to the development and implementation of the NACS in a paper that is available from our NACS Secretariat.

Our coming together today is an affirmation of my Government’s commitment to this approach.

The National Anti-Corruption Strategy is an integral part of a number of anticorruption initiatives that the DCC Government has prioritized to be delivered during this term of Parliament. These include, apart from the NACS:

  1. The Anti-Corruption Bill
  2. The Whistle-Blower Protection Bill
  • Electoral Reform incorporated into a new Electoral Act
  1. Reform to strengthen the Political Parties Integrity Act
  2. Reform to strengthen the Ombudsman
  3. Reform to strengthen the Leadership Code Commission
  • Freedom of Information Policy as a precursor to the
  • The Right to Information Bill

The national strategy is at the forefront of our preventative action against corruption. The proposed Anti-Corruption Bill, when enacted, will be the instrument by which we will investigate and prosecute corruption. The incoming Anti-Corruption Act will create the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption (SIICAC); a specialized/independent institution that will be solely responsible for investigation and prosecution of corruption allegations whilst supporting civic education on the effect of corruption.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that the Anti-Corruption Bill is nearing completion and it will found its way back to Parliament very soon. Following receipt of the report on the hearing of the Anti-Corruption Bill by the Bills and Legislative Committee of Parliament earlier this year, I would like to assure you that our staffs are vigorously pursuing correction to this Bill. On further assessment of the Bill, we have also found areas that we need to improve on the Bill.

I noticed that there will be a presentation on the Anti-Corruption Bill during this workshop, and I am confident our staff will be able to present a clear account of the current deficiencies that we need to correct.   Irrespective of these further works on the Bill, I have already instructed my staff that these new set of instructions to correct the Bill must be completed and forwarded to the Attorney General’s drafting team before the end of this year.

The Whistle Blower Protection Bill is all set to go for enactment now but it needs to be accompanied by the Anti-Corruption Bill because it was primarily designed to support the Anti-Corruption Bill when enacted.

For 2017, and if all deliveries are progressing without any major setbacks, it is highly likely that the Anti-Corruption Bill, the Whistle Blower Protection Bill, the new National Election Bill, the Bill to amend the Political Parties Integrity Act, and the new Leadership Code Bill will all be ready for enactment. The new Ombudsman Bill is ready for enactment this year, and in the next few weeks I will be scrutinizing the Freedom of Information Policy paper before taking it to Cabinet for approval.

Ladies and gentlemen, obviously the agenda in our fight against corruption is quite huge. But as I have alluded to earlier, there is no more time for reflection, there is no more time for rhetoric, there is only time for action. The magnitude of the work to follow from implementing the agenda prioritized by Government as well as the Action Plan of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy will be quite substantial.

It is needless for me to mention that the magnitude of the work in our fight against corruption calls for development partners’ supports. I have received delegation after delegation from our development partners and have pledged their support for our effort to combat corruption. Well, this is now the time to step up to the plate and help us achieve our goals in our fight against corruption.

Before I sit down, allow me to make mention of the Steering Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and its role. The Steering Committee will be the pinnacle of our coalition in the fight against corruption. I understand development partners will also be coopted if they so wish.

With your consideration and recommendation, I expect to receive from you (the Steering Committee) realistic deliverables that we should act upon in our collective fight against corruption. From my end, I will try my very best to ensure that the activities you have identified to implement will be adequately resourced.

I will also be relying on your good judgement when you are scrutinizing the draft National Anti-Corruption Strategy. I will only accept the final version of the Strategy if you are also happy with its contents. But note that I have committed to publicly launch this Strategy on the International Anti-Corruption Day in December this year.

Colleagues, I would like to reiterate that we must take action now. I would also like to reinforce the fact that we need each other to consolidate our strength in the fight against corruption. United we will have the strength to sustain the fight against corruption. Divided it will be business as usual and I doubt we can sustain the fight against corruption into the future.

With those few remarks let me now declare your workshop open

Tagio tumas

6 thoughts on “Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare: Time to Act Agressively, Quickly on Corruption

  1. Pingback: Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare | Anti Corruption Digest

  2. Pingback: Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare | 2RUTH.NETWORK

  3. Pingback: Reflections on governance and corruption at the 2017 AAC - Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre

  4. Pingback: Reflections on governance and corruption at the 2017 AAC | Policy

  5. Pingback: A Cultural Defense to Bribery? The Solomon Islands’ Approach | GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog

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