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Fiji

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) reports directly to the president and investigates public agencies and officials, including police. Government measures to combat corruption within the bureaucracy, including FICAC public-service announcements encouraging citizens to report corrupt government activities, had some effect on systemic corruption. Media published articles on FICAC investigations of abuse of office, and anonymous blogs reported on some government corruption.

The government adequately funded FICAC, but some observers questioned its independence and viewed some of its high-profile prosecutions as politically motivated.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions charged two police officers with fraud.

Corruption cases often proceeded slowly. In October the trial of former corrections chief lieutenant colonel Ifereimi Vasu began. Authorities dismissed him in 2015 for abuse of office related to his alleged misuse of a prison minimart.

Financial Disclosure: No law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials. The law, however, requires financial disclosures by candidates running for election and party officials. In May 2018 FICAC charged Sitiveni Rabuka, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, with making a false declaration of his assets, income, and liabilities. The court acquitted Rabuka of all charges in October 2018. The appellate court dismissed a FICAC appeal of the ruling a week later.

Palau

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Government corruption was a problem, and the government took some steps to address it. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The Office of the Special Prosecutor, an independent entity, is authorized to prosecute any corruption in the government.

Corruption: As of November the special prosecutor has three continuing investigations into cases of government corruption. In July the governor of Ngiwal State, Ellender Ngirameketii (son-in-law of former interim president Thomas Remengesau Sr.), was arrested and charged with misconduct in office and falsifying financial disclosure statements, understating payments for security services provided by his company to the government.

Financial Disclosure: The government requires elected and some appointed public officials to file annual financial disclosure statements; candidates for office must file a similar statement with the Ethics Commission. These statements are available for public inspection. There are administrative and criminal sanctions for noncompliance.

Samoa

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. The maximum penalty for corruption is 14 years’ imprisonment. There were reports of government corruption. In May the contract of the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration was terminated following his suspension in March when the Public Service Commission (PSC) filed six charges against him. One of the charges included a breach of the Public Service Act, based on an allegation that the CEO unlawfully authorized the release of original Lands and Titles Court files relating to the minister of justice. The CEO was terminated, however, not for the removal of court files, but for inappropriate behavior towards female employees and alleged misconduct in relation to other ministry employees, issues that came to light during the PSC investigation.

The law provides for an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government agencies, officials, or employees, including allegations of corruption. The ombudsman may require the government to provide information relating to a complaint. The Attorney General’s Office prosecutes criminal corruption cases on behalf of the PSC. The Ombudsman’s Office and the PSC operated effectively. The Ombudsman’s Office included academics and other members of civil society among the members of its commissions of inquiry.

Corruption: There was public discontent throughout the year at significant delays in the submission of annual audit reports to parliament and the lack of punitive action. For example, the latest publicly available report of the controller and auditor general’s reports to parliament was for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The reports for the three subsequent years were tabled in parliament in March.

Financial Disclosure: Although there are no financial disclosure laws, codes of ethics applicable to boards of directors of government owned corporations encouraged public officials to follow similar disclosure.

Seychelles

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials, but due to the limited powers accorded to the Anti-Corruption Commission under the laws in place in the first part of the year, the government did not implement the law effectively. On August 5, the Anti-Corruption Act was amended to give the commission the same powers, authority, and privileges as that of a law enforcement agency to detect, prevent, investigate, and prosecute cases of corruption outside the purview of the Attorney General’s Office.

In 2018 an access to information law came into force. During the year the government appointed a CEO for the Seychelles Information Commission, and also appointed information officers in all ministries and departments. The law makes provisions on how citizens may access government information that is not classified sensitive for security and defense reasons, how agencies should respond to requests, mandates proactive disclosure and a duty to assist requestors, and defines information that is deemed classified for security and defense.

Corruption: There were no prosecutions during the year. Political wrangling prior to amendment of the Anti-Corruption Act over the commission’s powers and a small staff hindered anticorruption investigations. As of November the commission had 72 open cases. The commission received technical assistance from the EU.

Financial Disclosure: Government ministers, members of the National Assembly, and senior public servants and board members of government agencies and parastatals are required to declare their assets. Asset declarations may be made public if the information is needed for a court case or upon request to the ethics commissioner. The law was not always enforced.

Trinidad and Tobago

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Corruption remained a problem at many levels of government. Senior police officials acknowledged that officers participated in corrupt and illegal activities, often accepting bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling, as well as human trafficking.

Opaque public procurement processes continued to be of concern. There were continued allegations that some politicians and ministers had close relationships with gang leaders and facilitated procurement and contracting of road, bridge, and construction projects to companies owned and operated by criminal enterprises.

During the year high-profile corruption cases were initiated against current and former officials from each of the two main political parties. On May 2, police arrested former attorney general Anand Ramlogan and Senator Gerald Ramdeen. Prosecutors charged both with conspiring to engage in money laundering, corruption, and misbehavior in public office. On August 12, prosecutors charged Minister of Public Administration and Member of Parliament Marlene McDonald with seven criminal charges: three charges of misbehavior in public office, three charges of conspiracy to defraud the state, and one charge of money laundering.

Financial Disclosure: The law mandates that senior public officials disclose their assets, income, and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, which monitors, verifies, and publishes disclosures. The commission publishes a list annually of officials who failed to file by the deadline. The law provides criminal penalties for failure to comply, but there were no prosecutions.

Vanuatu

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government made some efforts to implement the law. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and there were isolated reports of government corruption.

The Office of the Ombudsman and the Auditor General’s Office are key government agencies responsible for combating government corruption. In July, Hamlison Bulu was appointed ombudsman.

Corruption: The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law. In 2017 the Office of the Ombudsman recommended that Deputy Prime Minister Bob Loughman be prosecuted for breaching the leadership code by trying to exercise undue influence over the member selection process for the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education. As of November the Public Prosecutor’s Office had not acted on the recommendation.

In July an official from the Department of Strategic Planning and Policy was sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzling VUV 5.6 million ($48,200) in public funds.

Also in July an official from the Department of Education was sentenced to 14 months in prison for defrauding the state of VUV 6.88 million ($59,200) in public funds.

Financial Disclosure: Members of parliament and elected members of provincial governments are subject to a leadership code of conduct that includes financial disclosure requirements. They must submit annual financial-disclosure reports to the clerk of parliament, who then publishes a list of elected officials who did not comply. The Office of the Ombudsman, which investigates those who do not submit reports, confirmed that some officials did not comply with these requirements. Reports are not made available to the public, and the ombudsman only has access for investigative purposes.

In September 2018 Kalo Seule, a sitting member of parliament, was convicted of tax evasion for not declaring income from his personal business. Seule appealed his conviction; however, the magistrate court had no jurisdiction to hear the charges relating to a monetary claim exceeding VUV 988,000 ($8,500), so the case was transferred to the Supreme Court in October 2018.

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