Tonga eager for strong focus on preventing corruption
NUKU’ALOFA-November 9: 9.55am (Nuku’alofa Times): Tonga has progressed in following the requirements of the UN Convention Against Corruption, Member of Parliament Lord Fusitu’a told the Conference of State Parties (CoSP) in St. Petersburg, Russia last week.
Lord Fusitu’a, who was head of the Tongan delegation, told delegates that the nation had already introduced many best practices expected of signatories to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), including establishing the Pacific’s first Standing Committee on Anti-Corruption.
“Tonga also has in place legislative measures that echo the principles of UNCAC. We have passed a Money-Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act as well as a Computer Crimes Act and our Criminal Offences Act has been amended to deal specifically and strategically with the modernity of illicit enrichment,” Lord Fusitu’a told delegates at the CoSP, which had 1,500 participants in attendance from 164 countries.
“We acknowledge the assistance of UNODC, UNDP and the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-corruption (UN-PRAC) Project and the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) for their initiatives in the Pacific which has resulted in Tonga being present and participating at this Conference.
“Tonga has actively participated in numerous regional and international workshops of anti-corruption – the recent UN-PRAC assisted workshops with the media, CSOs and NGOs in Tonga and a briefing of Cabinet by UN-PRAC on UNCAC, as well as an initiative with the Pacific Islands Forum to develop a code of conduct for the Legislative Assembly that will involve disclosure of assets and other ethical and transparency based codes of behaviour both within and without the House.”
In a statement the UNDP said Lord Fusitu’a said that although the fight against corruption has been ongoing in Tonga for many years at a legislative, policy and practical level, it has been the recent cooperation with these partners in the Pacific that has seen the recent resurgence and political will to further these efforts, and in particular with reference to UNCAC.
In 2002, Tonga enacted the Commissioner for Public Relations Act. This Commissioner has been responsible pursuant to a Cabinet Decision to deal with both administrative and judicial review matters, as well as allegations of direct criminal corruption.
“This legislation establishes what we feel is a nation appropriate model for Tonga whereby the Anti-Corruption Commissioner will work in tandem with the Legislative Assembly and in particular the Standing Committee on Anti-corruption to receive and review corruption allegations with the Commission providing the investigative and judicially aligned duties and the Standing Committee providing review and oversight, with prosecution of corruption cases then referred to the Office of our Attorney General based upon these investigations and review,” Lord Fusitu’a said.
“With the momentum of the establishment of the Standing Committee, with the impetus and political will and encouragement from the Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet have sought from Privy Council that a Commissioner now finally be appointed.”
Lord Fusitu’a observed that the sovereignty of nations on the question of ratification is being strongly respected.
“As best as I am able to glean, the advice, guidance and assistance proffered by UNODC and by the institutions present towards, institutional and capacity-building has been in good faith cognizant of the fact that the ultimate question of ratification is a sovereign national one. I am also pleased to have observed that this has included a sensitivity to the particular needs of Small Island Developing States or SIDS and of the particular needs of my region of the Pacific. This is also something I would further encourage,” Lord Fusitu’a said.
Lord Fusitu’a has also supported other Pacific delegates to the UN’s peak conference on anti-corruption in wanting implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to form a key pathway to tackling corruption and bribery in Small Island Developing States.
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