Kiribati Parliamentarians curbing corruption in the public sector
(Tarawa, Kiribati) - Parliamentarians in Kiribati are set to seek amendments to increase powers for an important committee that scrutinises public spending. This development stemmed from training for parliamentarians to familiarise them with the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) powers and functions.
Since independence, the Committee has always had closed hearings, making them inaccessible to the public including the Members of Parliament who are not part of the committee. The Committee currently has limited powers and resources to undertake investigations and to hold the Government accountable for the implementation of its recommendations, resulting in weakening of its ability to address corruption in the public sector.
As one of the Kiribati Parliament’s oversight mechanisms, the Public Accounts Committee when effectively used can become an effective tool for ensuring the accountability of public funds and curbing corruption in the public sector.
During the Public Accounts Committee Workshop the Kiribati Parliamentarians noted that the powers of the Committee were limited to the consideration of the Auditor General’s report and it had no power to recommend the criminal prosecution and the filling of appropriate charges, civil or administrative, of any person established by the Committee to have violated the public finance laws. Rest of the 46 Members of Parliament (MPs) also discussed the powers and structure of the PAC, it’s role in relation to the police, the state-owned enterprises and the Island Councils as well as the powers and resources that it needs to have in order to be effective in addressing corruption in the public sector.
“This was a very useful meeting in that it enlightens the new MPs to Public Accounts Committee of their duties for the next two years. It was also useful to other MPs, managers of state-owned enterprises and relevant ministries and bodies by making them aware of how to address the corrupt practices that we begin to see in all areas of the public service,” said the Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Thomas Iuta at the closure of the workshop.
The newly appointed Chairperson of the Committee, Honourable Tangariki Reete, one of four women MPs elected to the Kiribati Parliament in October 2011 found the workshop to have been very timely and useful.
“Since this is my first time to be appointed as the Chairperson of the PAC, this workshop was very educative, informative and what I have learnt will guide me in my new position. It is a way forward for women in Kiribati to do better in looking after something very important for our country,” she said.
The three day workshop concluded on 5 May with concrete recommendations and requested the Speaker to seek their approval in Parliament during the August 2012 session. The recommendations included proposed amendments to existing laws with a view of broadening the powers, authority and scope of the PAC to strengthen its oversight function; measures to address poor follow-up on recommendations of the PAC, and that the Committee conduct public awareness and public hearing to increase public understanding of the PAC roles and allows opportunity for feedback on PAC reports.
The workshop was designed and facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kiribati Parliament staff and the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly including senior officials from government departments. The workshop is an activity of UNDP’s Kiribati Parliament Support Project 2009 – 2012. UNDP supports the Parliaments in several Pacific Islands countries, including Kiribati.