We welcome Pacific Leaders recognition of the need to address corruption in the region and their commitment for regional unity against corruption. While climate change persists as the greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of the Pacific people, corruption also plays a major role in undermining progress towards a secure, peaceful and prosperous region.
Transparency International chapters in the Pacific urge Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to implement the policies outlined in the 2020 Teieniwa Vision, which highlights the importance of strong leadership, political will, and substantiated anti-corruption efforts at the regional and national level.
Pacific leaders have made several positive steps by making public commitments and national initiatives to tackle corruption. However, the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and Global Corruption Barometer – Pacific, that surveyed 6,000 people across ten Pacific countries and territories, highlighted some worrying trends which suggest that corruption remains a very significant challenge. In addition, the 2022 Report on Corruption and Money Laundering in the Pacific also highlights the insufficient attention has been paid to the link between corruption and money laundering – dirty money that flows from and through Pacific Island countries.
The 2021 CPI highlighted that government wrongdoing is concealed from the public and it can be risky to speak up about corruption. Very few Pacific countries have specific laws on right to information and whistleblower protection. Those that do, have gaps in the legislation or barriers to implementation. For example, Vanuatu’s right to information unit is enshrined in law, but it is undermined by recruitment delays and the state’s relatively weak reach outside of urban centres. Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) and Solomon Islands’ whistleblower protection legislations are inadequate and poorly enforced.
Concerns have also been raised about restricted media freedom. In Fiji, laws provide the government with direct oversight of the media and the ability to heavily fine critics. This fosters a climate of fear that prevents journalists from exposing corruption. In Vanuatu, the recent criminalisation of defamation is likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and press. And in Australia, press freedom is also fragile, undermining public interest journalism and transparency.
The 2021 Global Corruption Barometer – Pacific survey revealed that more than three in five people interviewed in the region believe that corruption is a problem in their government. Businesses were also viewed as a major part of the problem, with government contracts appear to be a corruption hotspot. Moreover, almost half think there is little control over companies who extract natural resources, one of the largest industries in the region.
The good news for Pacific Governments is that over 70 per cent of respondents think that ordinary people can help fight corruption, and more than 60 per cent think their government is doing a good job combating corruption.
Pacific leaders are urged to harness this hope – and the powerful guidance this new data offers about where problems lie – and to take proactive action to create fairer and more transparent societies by:
- strengthening accountability of political leaders, requiring all high-level officials to publicly disclose their income and assets, tightly monitoring discretionary public funds, and empowering the police and courts to properly investigate and punish corruption
- increasing transparency in the relationship between government and businesses, by monitoring companies’ involvement in electoral campaigns and policymaking, and by ensuring that all public contracts are awarded fairly and competitively
- eradicating bribery opportunities by investing in clear and uncomplicated systems for accessing public services
- ensuring elections are fair and free of vote-buying or threats, by strengthening independent electoral commissions and anti-corruption agencies
- introducing and enforcing right to information and whistleblower protection laws, so that citizens and journalists can hold power to account without fear of retaliation
Collaboration by all parts of society is needed to effectively combat corruption, with communities at the heart of this positive change for the common good. The Pacific people have hope and trust in you – the Pacific Island Forum leaders – to make meaningful reforms for fairer and more prosperous nations across the region.
Transparency International Australia
Transparency International New Zealand
Transparency International Solomon Islands
Transparency International PNG
Transparency International Vanuatu
Transparency International Secretariat