By Gary Hatigeva
CLAUSE 26 within the Anti-Corruption Bill 2017 that deals with authorised officers of the Anti- Corruption Commission has been put to question, over fears that the period given for relieved officers to return identification materials (cards) belonging to the commission, is too long and has the possibility to be tempered with.
In highlighting, this, members of parliament from both the opposition and independent groups are concerned that with the given timeframe for the return of the id materials, seems long enough for those who are ceased from being authorised officers, to misuse and misguide people with, for their personal benefits.
In questioning this, Leader of the Independent Group and MP for Northeast Guadalcanal, Derek Sikua stressed that the 21 days is too long because that officer can do a lot of damages within that period, “that’s three weeks”.
“I’m question the policy choice of why 21 days, when that officer could have just return it within 5 working days to return?” the Northeast Guadalcanal MP questioned.
Meanwhile, when responding to the issue raised, the Attorney General, James Apaniai explained that the 21 days highlighted is a pretty much the maximum period given under the clause, but pointed out that it does not stop relieved officer from returning the material the next day or within two or five days.
The Attorney General however warned that if those responsible do not return the identification materials as required by the clause within 21 days, then the matter with the person being subject, will become a criminal offense.
Also commenting on the matter, Member of Parliament for East Honiara, Douglas Ete in a follow up statement, posed questions and made connotations on the term ‘returned’ used in the clause.
The East Honiara MP said while he is happy with the 21-day period given as it is reasonable time by common law, the term ‘returning’ as far as timeframe is concerned especially, when certain officers are stationed in the provinces also needs clear explanations to.
The Attorney General further explained that what the East Honiara MP highlighted will involve the issues in the areas of law and that comes down to how it will be interpret, this is regarding the term returning of the card especially, in the case of someone who is in the provinces.
“If officers are within the reach of the Commission office, the card can be returned at any earlier period, which should then satisfy the requirement.
“But in the case of where an officer is in the province and it is a bit difficult to make it back into the Headquarter to hand over the ID personally, then in my view they can post it, which according to the rules of interpretation on how long this letter is deemed to have been received.
“And according to the rules, there will be indications of the recipient of the letter by the commission in the normal cause of post.
“In the normal cause of post is basically referring to next day, so if you are to be in the provinces and in regards of the normal cause of cost, just work out how long it would take?
“Maybe one or two weeks, and I believe that is one of the fact as to why there is the given 21 days.”
He added that with planes making regular routes to the provinces, the normal cause of post would obviously be reduced to almost a day or two.
He further added that in relation to posting of items back to the commission through mailing would also depend very much on the effectiveness of various postal outlets outside of the capital.
The clause has directed for the authorised officers to be issued with identification cards and also given powers including functions specified in the AC Bill (Act) and any other Acts to investigate, which puts perspective into why the concerns are being raised.
With the crucial function and powers placed on the authorised officers according to points raised, could become what has regularly been practiced by certain individuals, who could have been former officers within various institutes and agencies that go around using genuine or legal identification materials to lure favours, which includes financial but personal benefits.
As required under the clause, the termination of an authorised officer automatically requires for unauthorised officers to return ID materials that give usually give them the powers pointed out, within 21 days after the cessation.