In its 100-day plan, Fiji’s newly elected government announced the possibility of phasing out the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) and incorporating its functions into other agencies. Acknowledging this will be difficult to carry out, Fiji’s Prime Minister said they are still in the planning stage, analysing key processes and cases investigated. Based on the government’s commitment also within the 100-day plan to ensure the independence of key bodies like FICAC, Transparency International and Integrity Fiji strongly urge it to reconsider and instead strengthen FICAC’s independence and capacity to fight corruption in the country.
Having an independent and publicly accountable institution is crucial in order to eradicate corruption. Policymakers must identify its root causes and develop a multi-dimensional response – including both proactive and reactive measures. The investigation and prosecution efforts carried out by law enforcement are exclusively reactive, and therefore the government’s proposal to shift all anti-corruption responsibilities to that branch would be insufficient.
With a score of 53 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, released Tuesday 31 January, Fiji is the highest scoring Pacific country, in part due to the valuable work of FICAC. As one of the few countries in the region with a national anti-corruption agency, Fiji stands up as a model for others – successes that must be built upon, not reversed.
Joseph Veramu, executive director of Integrity Fiji, said:
“We applaud the new government for committing to repeal the many undemocratic laws and measures that previously existed. But amidst these efforts, they cannot lose sight of anti-corruption efforts. This includes ensuring that FICAC remains operational, retains its independence and has sufficient capacity to root out corruption across Fiji.”
Transparency International calls on Fiji’s government to prioritise fighting corruption and address bottlenecks that currently limit FICAC’s work. We call for a multi-stakeholder mechanism involving politicians, the business community and civil society with oversight over the commission to ensure its independence. Funding is also a key issue. The previous administration had been reducing funding to FICAC and other relevant public institutions in recent years – this must be reversed. In addition, the 2013 constitution provides for the establishment of an Accountability and Transparency Commission that has also been hindered by too little funding. Only by increasing support of these key mechanisms can Fiji continue as a leader in the region.