By Gary Hatigeva
THE Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OMPC) has come under heavy criticism. Its officials who have been tasked to prepare the reintroduced Anti-Corruption Bill, have been blamed for not putting emphasis on the Bill.
This was after a hiccup in the PMO delegation’s presentation into the bill when appearing before the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC), where most including the head of the group, admitted not being familiar with certain sections highlighted in the hearing.
The officials appeared before the Committee to present their case as hearings resumed to start enquiries into the Bill. They were asked to thoroughly go through recommendations that were given by the committee for the purpose of strengthening the legislation.
Chairman of the BLC and Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga, Matthew Wale had instructed the PMO officials to deliberate on the recommendations, enlightening the committee on the status of each (recommendation), and the nature of their inclusion if being considered.
“The committee wants to know what you have decided from a policy stand point on those recommendations and how you have then integrated those to that bill
“That will give us a clear picture on the decision making which resulted in this bill and the drafting that have taken place,” the BLC Chairman explained.
However, after going through few of the recommendations, the delegation was caught off guard as they were noticeably ill prepared with clear indications of confusion over certain sections of the bill, particularly on the recommendations.
The enquiries received an early suspension as the delegation was unfortunately interrupted by the BLC Chairman during what was described as, their untidy presentation, after noticing the nature of responses from the delegation to questions raised, which according to one of the committee members spoken to, showed no commitment from those responsible.
“Let alone the Office of the Prime Minister and of course the government, who is supposed to be pushing and ensuring works into the bill are properly carried out.
“To have a crucial bill before the committee and to get poor responses and indicating confusing status into it only goes to show the weight of commitments being put into it (Bill),” the Committee Member stressed.
The meeting resumed in the afternoon only after the PMO delegation was told to go back and properly go through the highlighted sections that were put under questions as a team.
A total of 15 recommendations were made before the bill was withdrawn last year for amendments, but the hiccup was mostly centred on Recommendation nine, which both the National Consultant from the Policy Unit, looking after laws and legislations policies of the government, and the Secretary to the Prime Minister admitted no being well versed with.
“The Committee recommends that, provisioins regarding the budget for the Commission to include eith of the following; (1) the Commission’s budget submission cannot be reduced by the Ministry of Finance can only increase it.
“Only Parliament can reduce the Commissions budget based on reasonable and justifiable grounds. Or (2) A statutory formula by operation of law is used to regulate the level of the Commission funding.”
The Bill was reintroduced after it was withdrawn from the Business Paper on the floor of Parliament on Monday August 28, 2017.
Former Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare had sought leave under Standing Order 31(1) to move the motion to withdraw the original Bill which was introduced back in 2016.
Prime Minister then moved without notice under Standing Order 26 (1) due to the reasons, the Bills and Legislation Committee at that time had made some very good recommendations to improve the older version of the Bill.
Government had agreed and seen the need to improve the Bill with the inclusion of recommendations from the latter Bills and Legislations Committee thus the Bill was reintroduced in Parliament as a new Bill.
The Bill according to the SPM, despite its new nature, remains consistent with the original one, however received a few but important amendments, which he described, would best suit Solomon Islands context.
Yesterday’s enquiries into the Anti-Corruption Bill ended with presentations from the office of Transparency Solomon Islands, and continues today.