Postdate: 5/ 02/ 2007
Commodore Bainimarama’s announcement last week that the Interim Government plans to set up a new anti-corruption agency within a year reveals what he presumably intends to be the next phase of the military’s “clean-up campaign”. With respect, however, I question whether it is appropriate to establish a new government agency in the middle of what should be an unprecedented exercise in cost-cutting and down-sizing Fiji’s public service.
Every one of our Governments over the past 20 years has declared its intention to reduce the size of the public service, but none has made any real progress in doing so. The Interim Government has joined this chorus, and may even follow-through on its stated intention. However, at the same time, it is proposing to set up a new anti-corruption agency. This will be costly to set up in the first place, and costly every year to keep running. My question is, at a time of national economic crisis, should the Interim Government be committing itself to these additional costs? Corruption is of course something that no government can afford to ignore. It is recognised around the world that taking appropriate measures to combat corruption is essential to the achievement of peace and prosperity in any country.
However, the weight of expert opinion suggests that there are no quick fixes. According to a recent report published by the United Nations Development Programme, entitled Institutional Arrangements to Combat Corruption: A Comparative Study (2005): “A well-thought through anti-corruption reform strategy requires a long-term vision and a clear understanding that fundamental change can take place, at the earliest, in the next and not in the present generation”.