Saturday, 23 April 2016

Anti Corruption in Fiji (GOPAC-Pacific and UNODC)

This post is based on the Anti Corruption Workshop for Pacific Parliamentarians at Novotel in Nadi organised by GOPAC, UNODC and UNDP in 2015. It was an opportunity to meet with Parliamentary members of the Fiji Public Accounts Committee, Parliamentarians from other Pacific countries and anti corruption agencies.
Fiji adopted the the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2008 and is the only Pacific country to have set up an anticorruption agency namely FICAC. Fiji has also been involved in reviewing 3 other countries under UNCAC. One of the questions asked by an Australian Parliamentarian was on the setting up in Fiji of a Standing Committee on Corruption. It was noted that the Fijian Constitution had provisions for anti corruption agencies. Investigations of corruption allegations required it to be dealt with apolitically and confidentially. Standing committees would require bipartisan parliamentary membership and political maturity was an important prerequisite so that the proceedings of the Committee did not deteriorate into political grandstanding.
Corruption is a concern in Fiji especially with the private sector. FICAC has jurisdiction to litigate against companies that have procurement arrangements with Government Ministries on corruption allegations. They deal with companies and employees only when there are allegations of fraud.
Corruption is such an issue in the private sector that the joke is that the richest people are Purchasing Officers who deal in procurements. They have the biggest houses and the flashiest cars!
 As the due processes will take place by the Judicial Services Commission to appoint the FICAC Commissioner in due course, it is noted that FICAC has impressed with its anti corruption investigations, advocacy, public awareness and litigation. It has come of age in its recent successful case where they used their own expertise without relying on QCs.
At the workshop it was reported that in Fiji, the government was looking at a network of laws that complement each other in terms of anti corruption. Under the Companies Bill 2015, business concerns are divided in different categories based on their turnovers. They have to disclose Annual returns and this can be cross checked with filings on individual returns, for example. This is one means of keeping tabs of irregularities.
At the workshop, the Civic Society organisations were represented by Transparency International Fiji and PNG. Both TI groups have a policy of  “constructive engagement” with their Governments. The point made was that they were anti corruption NOT anti government. This soft power approach has enabled constructive inputs into policy work in Fiji and PNG. In the case of PNG, the Government there requested TI PNG to be part of the review team under UNCAC reviewing other countries.
There was mention of Integrity Pacts in the Pacific Parliamentarians Workshop as a means of curbing corruption amongst private companies with Governmnet procurement contracts. Corruption in this sector is getting sophisticated given that Government uses a cash based accounting system as opposed to the accrual system used in the private sector. This leaves room for unscrupulous business people to game the system..
The essential elements of the integrity pact are: (a) It is pact (contract) among a Government office (the principal) inviting public tenders for any type of contracts related to goods and services and the bidders;  There is an undertaking by the Government ministry that its officials will not demand or accept any bribes and gifts. There is a statement by each bidder that it has not paid, and will not pay, any bribes in order to obtain or retain the contract; 
(b) There is an undertaking by each bidder to disclose all payments made in connection with the contract in question to anybody. Each bidder explicitly accepts the no-bribery commitment and the disclosure. Winning bidders must abide by the pact until the contract has been fully executed;
(c)Bidders are advised to have a company code of conduct (clearly rejecting the use of bribes and other unethical behaviour) and a compliance program for the implementation of a code of conduct throughout the company;
(d) Arbitration is used as a conflict resolution mechanism and the instance to impose sanctions. There is also an independent monitoring system which can be performed with active civil society participation or any other structure with independence, accountability and credibility.

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