The arrest of a permanent secretary and his wife charged with alleged corruption in the public service was a big catch for police but significantly it shows the deepening corruption in public offices.
It was shocking that police nabbed the PS of Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) Henry Murray and his wife for allegedly stealing of $1.1m over four years. Police claimed the couple set-up a company under their names and had been receiving over a million dollar for ‘vehicle hiring’.
As the matter is now before the court, I will not divulge into details of the case but in making my observation, I wish to underscore that once a noble job, permanent secretaries positions have now been belittled with string of arrests and suspensions of late – all related to abuse of office.
In the post-colonial era, our governments appointed public officers with esteemed standing and those who knew the public service in and out.
But today, some of the permanent secretaries are picked on political affiliations not on merit. I also acknowledged very good permanent secretaries were also been appointed on merit.
I had once served in the government and found some of the permanent secretaries to be exceptional whilst others were disappointing.
Having said that, as accounting officers of the ministries the permanent secretaries know too well their role. They are decision markers on every file that comes their way. They chair ministerial tender boards and some members of them are in the Central Tender Board. These are roles that need sound judgment, fairness and ethnical decisions. In doing their jobs, the PSs’ must know that their families and their interests should be the least on their agenda.
The rule is when you become a leader, you and your interests are shelved in the back burner and others come first based on fairness and sound judgment.
However many of leaders put themselves at the front and enrich their families so as their cronies before others. This now appears as the rule of certain leaders in the public service selfishly brought in by the attitude of certain politicians who only allocate projects to their supporters.
There is strong evidence to suggest that based on the recent arrests some people are vying for the public posts to enrich themselves. These people must and must face the full brunt of the law.
In that regard, allow me to commend the police for their exceptional work in clamping down on corruption.
Very often our people demand the police to arrest corrupt public officers. However they did not realize that getting to the bottom of this is not easy. They need to have strong evidence and witness(es) before making any arrests. Such evidences must withstand the court process in seeking justice for the state and also on the part of those accused.
On our part, Solomon Islanders who want to see justice must also become part of the “wheel of justice”. By that, I mean those who have evidence or any wrong doing by public officers should submit them to police rather than shelving them.
Commissioner Matthew Varley has continued to appeal to the public to support Janus and one way is to provide evidence of alleged corrupt public officers to police. As part of their job, police need strong evidence to successfully prosecute any person in the court of law especially those alleged to have corrupted the public purse.
Finally, it is refreshing to see Janus making huge arrests in the past nine months and we hope more apprehensions would be made as they widen the net into the web of the alleged corruption in the public service.