By Gary Hatigeva
THE Bill provides for imprisonment from five to seven or more years, besides fine, to those convicted of sleeping in bed with corruption.
After almost a week of scrutiny and proceedings, Parliament has on Wednesday passed the much anticipated Anti-Corruption Bill 2017.
The question now is how long before it is gazetted and implemented.
In his summary statement prior to the passing of the Bill, Prime Minister, Rick Houenipwela who is the mover of the motion for the tabling of the bill, said the piece of legislation provides safeguards to officers who perform their duties with honesty.
He pointed out that the government has brought up the bill so that honest performing officer does not get intimidated.
Hou said the “historic legislation has provisions to ensure cases with genuineness are given justice so to stop corruption practices in all levels”.
The Prime Minister said the government aimed at taking strict measures against corruption while also ensuring good working atmosphere.
Many members who took part in the debate stressed on the need for electoral reforms to curb corruption, which will also be brought into parliament under separate bills.
Some opposition members during the proceedings, accused the government of diluting the anti-corruption act, with critics over the non-inclusion of private sector, claiming it to be one of the main culprits as to why public officers fall into corruption traps.
Meanwhile, the summary of the Bill noted that the Anti-Corruption legislation is to give legislative effect to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) by creating new corruption offences to capture the full range of corrupt practices that may occur within the public sector or in the interaction between the public and private sectors.
The Bill provides for the investigation and prosecution of corruption offences, establishing the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption, and introducing a wide range of measures to prevent corruption.
It also included a national Anti-Corruption Strategy, public awareness activities about the effects and prevention of corruption, and assistance to public and private bodies in the prevention of corruption.
The reasons for the Bill according to its schedules, are that corruption in Solomon Islands appears to be widespread, with corruption undermining development and sustains poverty, inhibits economic growth, drives political instability, enables the unsustainable use of natural resources, impacts the delivery of services and undermines good governance and the rule of law.
The Bill’s summary also highlighted Solomon Islands agreeing to UNCAC in January 2012 and is internationally obligated to have laws in place to implement the Convention.
In 2014, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime conducted a Review of Solomon Islands’ compliance with the UNCAC, and showed deficiencies in several areas of law and administration, in particular as regards the scope of the existing laws and their effectiveness in preventing corruption.
The Government has accepted most of the recommendations in the UN Review, and the Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has developed a policy on Anti-Corruption, one component of which is this Bill.
Citing some other decisions related to new law, advocators spoken to earlier, however pointed out that it is easy to talk about corruption and difficult to walk the talk, and these leaders should put their hands together and see that the new legislation drives the hope of all for a better Solomon Islands.
It is understood that any legislations that makes it through parliament will have to get the blessing of the Governor General, and then Cabinet to gazette before it can become an effective law in the cycle, and people are questioning when it will be gazetted, highlighting similar instances where past crucial bills were passed but took years to be gazetted for enactment.