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Guarding the Guardians: Accountability and Anticorruption in Fiji's Cleanup Campaign

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): East-West Center

Author(s): Peter Larmour

Series: Pacific Islands policy ; 4

Topic: Justice (Legal procedure)
Politics (Political ethics)

Type: Report

Abstract:

In this paper Peter Larmour analyzes the vices and virtues of anti-corruption campaigns, and in particular how Fiji's military government under Commander Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama approached the issue of corruption during its first year in power. Larmour first considers how much corruption there may have been in Fiji before the December 2006 coup. Second, he analyzes the 2007 cleanup campaign: the purges, complaints, and investigations that culminated in the establishment of a Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC). Third, the paper explores who watches over authoritarian institutions in Fiji: the police, the FICAC, the president, and other entities. The essay concludes by offering comparisons with anti-corruption efforts in other countries, particularly in the Pacific Islands region. Based on publicly available sources, corruption in Fiji is examined at both the conceptual and operational levels. Larmour notes a striking difference between reports of public perception of corruption and personal experience with corruption. He underscores that public perception of widespread corruption is not tantamount to legally actionable evidence of corruption, a significant challenge that confronted Fiji's military. During 2007 the cleanup campaign instigated by the Bainimarama government adopted several methods: purges of senior officials and board members; gathering of public complaints; and investigations by police, soldiers, auditors, and ad hoc committees. While it remains to be seen what the outcomes of these cascading and open-ended investigations will be, concerns have been raised about due process. Moreover, in the face of a compromised judiciary and the absence of a functioning parliament, there is little oversight. To the extent that Fiji's authoritarian institutions such as the military have attempted to restrain the media, Larmour suggests that this too has weakened public trust. Without a system of checks and balances, an increasingly critical question for the anti-corruption campaign becomes "Who will guard the guardians?" ABOUT THE AUTHORPeter Larmour is a political scientist in the Crawford School at the Australian National University. For more than a decade he has taught and written extensively about issues of corruption. In addition, he has published about the process of policy transfer, land issues, and leadership in the Pacific. He has served as a consultant on governance issues in numerous parts of Oceania and is currently completing a book on corruption in the Pacific Islands.