New statute promises improved accountability

Jyoti Prabha

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum introduced to the Fijian Parliament on November 30, 2018 the ‘Code of Conduct Bill of 2018,’ promising that it will usher in a new era of ‘accountability and transparency by public servants.’

He said that the proposed Legislation related to Section 149 of the Fijian Constitution prescribing a written law for Code of Conduct.

Universal application

“The proposed Law will be applicable to the President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament and to all persons holding a public office. It will be applicable to all those holding offices including those under the 2013 Constitution or under any written laws covering Members of Commissions, Permanent Secretaries, Ambassadors and other Principal Representatives of the State. It will also apply to persons who hold statutory appointments and governing positions in statutory authorities including public offices as prescribed by the written law,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that the new Legislation will enable the Accountability and Transparency Commission to ensure that all public officials are held accountable.

“This means, all of us, including those in Parliament must declare our interests on a yearly basis at the very least. Even under the 1997 Constitution, the SVT Government, the Labour Government and the SDL Government were constitutionally bound to enact legislation which gave effect to section 156 of the 1997 Constitution but none of those governments brought to Parliament a Code of Conduct Bill,” he said.

Good Governance

He said that the FijiFirst Government believes that democratic principles of accountability, transparency and good governance in practical terms.

It is understood that the Bill also sets out provisions under which each all public servants must declare their financials every year and that the disclosures can be accessible by the public.

“It means that anyone will be able to see how much wealth a public official accumulated over a year and question any disproportionate accumulation of wealth. Under the Code of Conduct Bill, we will be legally bound to certain behaviour and if found in breach of these codes, it would be an offence,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Spouses and children included

It is also understood that the financials of spouses and legally dependent children of public office holders may also be released and made available for scrutiny.

This is only one part of the Bill. The statute in full will deal with protection of whistle-blowers and set a new level of transparency.

Adoption and Sex Offenders Bills

The other two Bills which were tabled were Adoption Bill of 2018 and the Registration of Sex Offenders Bill of 2018.

The current laws governing adoptions in Fiji were enforced in 1944. While it dealt with court processes, it did  not provide for screening prospective adoptive parents.

“The Act of 1944 regulates all matters pertaining to procedures and processes. However, the Act is 74 years old and does not comprehensively cater for the change in nature of adoption,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Among other issues, the proposed Bill will focus on several important issues.

The Registration of Sex Offenders Bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. It would necessitate registration of sex offenders, who will be not allowed to seek employment where children are involved.

By Special Arrangement with Fiji Sun


Photo Caption:

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum outside the Fijian Parliament on November 30, 2018

(Picture for Fiji Sun by Simione Haranavanua)

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