An entity to look into corrupt practices in the Samoa government will be set up soon as the first National Anti-corruption Policy and Strategy was officially launched last Thursday at Tanoa Hotel.

The policy marks the first step towards establishing such an organisation, however, the harder part would be setting the parameters in the context of culture.

Samoa acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2018 and the launch of the anticorruption policy is part of its contribution in fulfilling its commitment to that international treaty.

Representatives from the executive, parliament, private sector, civil society, community members, and development partners were there to witness the momentous occasion.

Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said now that the policy is launched the next step is to ensure early implementation and adequate resourcing of the implementers so that they can effectively operate independently and without fear of reprisals or intimidation in the course of their roles and responsibilities.

Mata’afa pointed out that often we see corruption as a technical problem with unclear parameters particularly when viewed in light of our culture and local context.

Given the insidious nature of corruption the costs of inaction are high, she said.

If implemented right the policy will ensure the systems work and provide a roadmap to further strengthen good governance, leadership, and integrity in Samoa.

“The vision is simple – a corruption-free Samoa,” Mata’afa said in her keynote address.

“We must strive to be known as a nation with integrity. It’s hard, but not impossible.

“At the heart of it all are accountable, citizen-focused, institutions at all three levels of government; the Executive level, the Judiciary, and Parliament; the latter being at the very peak of our democratic system.”

Independent integrity institutions, free of political interference are an important layer of any anti-corruption institutional framework.
Mata’afa said that is why the Government has directed existing integrity organisations such as the Public Service Commission, the Samoa Audit Office, and others to start laying the foundation for the establishment of an Integrity Commission soon.

The important role of Parliament in ensuring the achievement of a corruption-free Samoa must be underscored and political leaders are expected to observe such standards.

The Prime Minister said it has the constitutional mandate to both oversee the government and to hold the government to account.

“It is where laws are passed; permission to spend public funds on government policies is given; all the while remaining accountable to the public through Members of Parliament,” she said.

“The commitment to revisiting areas such as the development of a Leadership Code for the political level and finding solutions to the issue of culture and corruption in elections is acknowledgment that technical solutions are not enough, to address corruption.

“Most essential of all is having Political Leadership that must observe the standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability required of good governance practices.

“Without this political will at the highest level, anti-corruption efforts would always struggle to succeed and produce desired outcomes.”

Mata’afa also spoke about the consequences of the absence of trust and confidence of people in their political leadership and governments, or for that matter the diminished credibility of a country when engaging with partners who are trying to help.

She noted the important role of the media in holding the government accountable for their actions and inactions.

“Hence the continuing pursuit for easier public access to official information through the development of the ‘right to information’ framework,” she said.

In an interview with Samoa Observer, PSC Chief Executive Officer, Kolone Tekeri said with the policy in place, it lays the foundation for developing legislation and establishing a stand alone entity focusing on curbing corruption.

Asked about other offices that already have established policies to combat corrupt activities and how the new policy will apply in their workplace, Tekeri said they are working towards consolidating those efforts.

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Satama Leatisa Uitime welcomed the new anti-corruption policy emphasising its importance in their work as a supporting office to the Parliament.

Satama said corruption is a popular topic often raised by parliamentarians and having the policy in place will guide their work.

He explained when the work of the executive and its policies in terms of spending comes into question and now there is an anti-corruption policy that bridges the gap.

In one of the anti-corruption videos prepared by the PSC, the Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Reverend Maauga Motu also spoke about the need for a policy that covers all stakeholders and the church is no exception.

Reverend Motu was in support of the anti-corruption policy and strategy.

A framework to protect freedom of information and whistleblowers who reveal corruption and abuse of power is also in the works.