TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) commend the office of the Leadership Code Commission (LCC) for instigating an investigation, from an article by TSI questioning the source of fund the Honiara City Clerk purchase his new vehicle.
The article by TSI published on 22nd of July this year in the Island Sun, which LCC referred to was a reiteration of the complaints raised to their office in relation to the allegations of corruptions the councilors of the Honiara City Council (HCC) raised against themselves. Those allegations related to the use of funds for the Independence Day advances of $30,000 by 10 councilors, the supply of vehicles by Golden Pacific Motors Company and the Hire of John Szetu’s company excavator. Those complaints were revealed by the Honiara City Clerk Mr. Rence Sore during the information session organized by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce (SICCI) at the Heritage Park Hotel on July this year.
Besides those various complaints and issues revealed by Sore, other allegations that were brought into public speculations during the heated argument between the councilors. The said TSI article being referred to simply picked up on those issues. These issues were;
(1) The fire extinguisher borrowing worth $1.8 million paid to John Szetu Cr an appointed councilor.
(2) Purchase vehicles for HCC worth $1.9 million, allegedly through John Szetu’s business interest where the payment voucher was not provided to the OAG, and at about the same time the purchase of a brand-new vehicle by the City Clerk Mr. Rence Sore. Where did he get the funds to afford such an expensive vehicle?
(3) And the practice of fraud and nepotism in the award of lock up shops’ tenders, where allegedly councilors awarded themselves these lock up shops and then sell it to current lock-up shop owners. Some Honiara residents alleged that some of these are not residents of Honiara. An investigation into this would clear the authenticity or otherwise of these rumors building back trust in the Council. LCC media release published in the Solomon Star on 1st of September 2020 confirmed that they have vindicated Sore on the source of fund used to purchase a new brand vehicle. TSI commend the work of LCC in taking onboard that particular allegation and finally came out with the result of their investigation.
However, other allegations related to the HCC saga as raised in the initial article and recapped in this article, are yet to be made known to the public. It is unclear whether the LCC investigations only focus on this particular issue or whether all other issues raised by the Councilors were investigated. If so, then it is only reasonable that the public be informed about the results of the LCC investigations on all these issues. Citizens want to see the results of other allegations being investigated by LCC. It is welcoming to note that LCC carried out its investigation based on issues and concerns about our leaders being raised in the media. And we call on LCC to do the same with regards other issues that as alluded to above. These were issues raised in July 2020 during the SICCI information session. However, if other allegations are still under investigations then keep it going until the job is completed, if not taken onboard for investigation then probably the public need to know the reasons in order to pursue other avenues, if possible.
Another issue Transparency Solomon Islands urge those responsible is to investigate the allegations within the HCC is to include all the information necessary for the public to know. Information like where the source of money comes from. For instance, was it a loan or a royalty share with more details other than just stating that the city clerk is vindicated of the allegation of where he got the money to purchase his new brand vehicle? Quoting the relevant sections within the leadership code and relate it to where the source of money comes from to obtain the new vehicle obviously will communicate the message clearly to citizens who demand answers on those allegations. TSI will continue to blow the whistle for the people of Solomon Islands on issues related to allegations of corruption at the leadership positions at the political level and those who exercised people’s entrusted power and holding public positions of authority to deliver service in the best interest of the nation.
Moreover, Transparency Solomon Islands calls for legislative reform for the criminalization of “Illicit Enrichment” or “Unexplained Wealth”. We need legislations to clearly define what illicit enrichment or unexplained wealth to enable due prosecution of public officials and confiscation of assets acquired by means of corruption. It is important that a law with tougher penalties on illicit wealth is enforced given that it was also removed from draft Anti-Corruption Bill. No one or not a single person in position of power has been prosecuted and sentenced for imprisonment by LCC for accumulating wealth through fraud or other means of corruption. It is possible that current penalties within their jurisdiction are too light thus a separate legislation is needed for the unexplained wealth or amend the leadership code to become tough on people who become rich overnight through illegal means. So far, most of the cases of public servants charged for acquiring wealth were prosecuted under the penal code.
Transparency Solomon Islands is impressed with the courage that LCC has picking up issues raised in the media and investigate, without waiting for someone to file a complaint. TSI commends and encourages LCC to continue with this good work. And TSI encourage the public to make use of the whistle blowers Act that allows complainants to raise allegations for investigations without revealing their identities. We believe that fighting corruption is everyone’s responsibility and in order to eliminate it we must all work together by exhausting the established legislations provided to curb corruption. TSI’s hope is to continue working closely with our existing integrity institutions like the LCC, the Ombudsman office, Police and Public Service Commission to eliminate corruption that will certainly alleviate poverty in Solomon Islands. The sustainability of the fight against corruption lies in the hands of Institutions of Integrity. Lastly investigation has a positive side to it. It verifies and clears those wrongly accused, prosecute the guilty and build trust back in our governance system and leaders, a win-win outcome for all.