ELSEWHERE in this edition we carry a story on plans to make senior government officials declare their wealth.
We applaud the initiative and fervently hope that this is not just posturing by the new government.
The people of this country have always wanted a transparent and honest government.
They have always wanted civil servants and political office holders who serve the people and not themselves.
For years they have complained about rampant corruption in the government.
And their complaints were not without merit. Indeed, some senior government officials have used their positions to line their pockets. There is no doubt that some senior government officials have looted state resources. There is no denying that some officials are living beyond their means. To appreciate this sad reality you only have to look at their houses and cars.
We all know that the government is not the best paying employer in this country yet some of its employees are amongst the richest in this country.
How is that so?
The answer lies in the fact that they hold crucial positions from which they can loot from the government.
Using those positions, they rig tenders for kickbacks.
Those unable to get bribes through tenders engage in brazen fraud. The previous government seemed powerless to deal with corruption in its ranks.
When it finally decided to act it went for the small fish and it did not take the people long to realise that this might just be a show crack down on corruption to win votes.
They had reason to be sceptical and dismiss such belated measures as electioneering gimmicks. After all, time and again the auditor general had shown cases of people flagrantly disregarding financial regulations to enrich themselves yet only a handful of those culprits have been brought to book.
Because they are not really accountable to the people they are supposed to serve they plunder public funds with impunity.
When the government changes they simply disappear from the public eye and continue living large on their ill-gotten gains.
As a country we have allowed this practice to continue unabated because we don’t demand answers.
A declaration of assets has potential to change that.
It is a way of asking people to acc-ount for what they own before and after their tenure in the civil service.
This is not an unreasonable demand by any measure.
If anything, it is a chance for the civil servants to show that they either have served or they are willing to serve the people honestly. We strongly suggest that this declaration must not be a once off thing.
It would really help if senior civil servants were to declare their assets after every two years or even annually.
It’s high time senior civil servants realise that the positions they occupy are not an opportunity enrich themselves.
They are servants of the people.
If this government does not push for the declaration of assets it risks being tainted like the previous one.
After 14 years in power former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said he regretted that his government had failed to deal decisively with corruption.
By the time he said that the damage had already been done: he was out of power, voted out by people frustrated by his failure to tackle corruption. This coalition government runs the same risk if it does not come out strongly against corruption.
The good thing is that it is just starting and therefore still has a chance to do things right. The bad side of things is that it might just squander this opportunity if it doesn’t move fast enough.
Already valuable time has been lost. The regulation says the assets should be declared within 30 days of taking office but this has not happened.
“Technical problems” have been blamed.
We just hope these technical problems will not last long because the people are waiting for the coalition government to show how it is going to deal with corruption.
Time is of essence.