1 Jul 2013

Solomon Islands government admits corruption in ministries a problem

4:01 pm on 1 July 2013

The Solomon Islands government says it's new law on aid distribution avoids corruption, which is an entrenched problem.

Earlier in the week, the finance minister accused ministries of institutional corruption while justifying the new law that channels aid funds through the constituent offices of MPs.

Connelly Sandakabatu, the Minister for Development Planning and Aid Co-ordination, says the scheme works well and MPs are provided assistance from the ministries to implement aid projects.

He told Alex Perrottet corruption has long been a problem.

CONNELLY SANDAKABATU: (Indistinct) farmers directly assisted by me through this agricultural process for cocoa and coconuts and delivered in full. It is a partnership within constituencies, members of parliament and also the ministry of agriculture. So we do not go out there and work with farmers on our own. But each member is allocated a staff from the ministry of agriculture and livestock to work with farmers.

ALEX PERROTTET: There's allegations of corruption by Transparency and the LCC. In the ministries there's more layers of bureaucracy, there's more corruption there and there's more layers of bureaucracy. There's more corruption there and there's more opportunity...

CS: Exactly, exactly. I would totally agree. There are examples of that in the previous years - let's say the 2010 disbursement and 2009 and the years before that. For instance, my constituency only received 6 projects, and this time around, you have 83 projects. That is miles different.

AP: This is all well and good to be channelling money more efficiently through individual MPs in the CDOs, but what is the issue with corruption in ministries and should there be a clean-out of these problems of layers of bureaucracy where money disappears? I mean, surely that's the problem here.

CS: That is an issue which has been there for donkey's years. And, for us, we have a limited term to serve the people, and how best we can serve right now is I think what we have to do. The constituency bill has been passed, legislation for that is going to be with the Core Economic Working Group, which I'm sure you know. That comprises all donor partners. And if there is any issue or any donors want to be included in the legislation, then that's the opening. For my constituency this is the approach. I help and will continue to help my people.

AP: What is your government going to do to commit to doing something about cleaning out these ministries and the corruption inside them?

CS: We are exactly doing... I should say, there is the financial review and all these bills coming up, and we're not sitting on our back and watching. We are doing all we can. And I'd like to invite Transparency International to come and visit my constituency, as well, if they so wish.