Transparency International Fiji has defended its approach of not publicly asking too many questions on accountability of government and public officials.
The NGO's chairperson, Api Tudreu, says it is not TI Fiji's policy to be reactionary, but rather to focus on systemic reform and prevention efforts.
He says that along with Fiji's independent commission against corruption, they've made real gains in placing issues of corruption in the national discourse. Johnny Blades spoke to him.
API TUDREU: Because they've been in the news and because they began with a whole range of investigations, particularly with high-profile figures, they've had a high profile on that front, not so much until recently on the prevention, on developing awareness and commitment at the community level.
JOHNNY BLADES: But you guys are Transparency International, and it seems like the government is not always transparent about things they demand other political movements to be transparent about, like their salaries, for instance.
AT: Yeah, for sure. They are supposed to be accountable to the public and we are supposed to make public some of these details. I haven't seen any publication, official publication, on salaries and terms and conditions. But it's certainly something the goverment should consider they can do just to allay any kind of suspicions that might be in the public. After all, what every government wants is to be able to continue to be trusted by the rest of society.
JB: So do you push them on this?
AT: We haven't really had any cause to ask, because the work of TI Fiji has not really been about asking questions because there is suspicion. We've assumed that they have conducted themselves in the way any government has done in the past, through whatever systems are available within the law. But we've certainly gone to work with them in areas where there have been problems. We're now beginning to engage, for example, the area of public procurement and trying to get the systemic reform closer as a result of invitation tours by the public accounts committee on past experience with government operations. So it's more proactive engagement that we would rather be involved in. The high-profile reactionary approach, we leave that really to the media and other organisations. It doesn't seem to be our purpose in the long run.
JB: Is that just because of the personalities involved with leading the current government, or would that be generally your approach, anyway?
AT: In Fiji at the present time, much of the comments that come to the media are related to what government is actually doing, comments by its leaders. It prevents any kind of useful comment like that, because our comments are not evenly used by the media in Fiji. So I guess my answer is yes. It's an avenue that is risky because your opinions, when it actually reaches the press, is not as free as you would like it to reach the press, so we don't want to get engaged at that level.