Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prime Minister's speech on the ICAC Bill

Hi all, after the passage of the 2014 Budget this evening the Prime Minister introduced the Bill to set up Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The first vote passed 92 - 0. It is now adjourned for two months as required by law, before the second vote is taken.


Mr Speaker,

Today I present a very important Bill to amend the Constitution to establish the Independent Commission Against Corruption (or ICAC).

Mr. Speaker, when we took office in August 2011, one of the first NEC decisions was to adopt the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010-2030. This strategy is the first of its kind and sets a clear path way to address corruption and improve good governance.

Mr. Speaker, in November of 2011 NEC approved 11 key actions to be undertaken between 2012 and 2015 to give effect to this Strategy. One of the key actions is the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Mr Speaker, we knew that establishing the ICAC would take time. So the Government moved quickly to establish Taskforce Sweep to deal with immediate instances of corruption.

Mr Speaker, I am pleased to say that significant progress has been made by the Sweep Team. We are on course to seriously improve the integrity of our Country.  

Mr Speaker, today marks the first step in the legislative process to establish the ICAC. The first step is to amend the Constitution to establish the Commission. The full details of the Commission will be included in a new Organic Law.

Mr Speaker, I am planning to bring the Organic Law to Parliament early next year. However, the first thing to do is pass this Constitutional Amendment.   

Mr Speaker, the support of every Member of Parliament in voting for this Bill is a fulfilment of our promise to our people. It is a defining moment; a moment of truth; a moment each and every one of us in this House stand at the mercy of our people to judge us.

Corruption is an insidious crime against our people, Mr. Speaker. If we, as leaders, don't stand up and say no to corruption, who will? This is a noble challenge for us.

But today is an opportunity for every Member of Parliament to take this moral position and say no to corruption by voting for this Bill.

The Bill, Mr. Speaker, has been developed through an extensive public consultative process covering the four regions of the Country. Public servants have had public meetings, been on radio and received numerous written submissions.

From the consultation it was clear that people at all levels in the community overwhelmingly support the establishment of the ICAC as an independent constitutional office. People want ICAC to be free of undue political influence and to undertake its work without fear or favour. They want ICAC to be different from existing anti-corruption institutions. ICAC should be able to receive and initiate investigations on its own accord and prosecute the perpetrators.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill establishes the ICAC and sets out clearly its purpose, functions, powers and accountability.

The purpose of the ICAC is to contribute, in co-operation with other agencies, to preventing, reducing and combating corrupt conduct.

The ICAC will be headed by a Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners who shall be appointed through an Appointments Committee.

The composition of the Appointments Committee will be provided for in the new Organic Law.

Most importantly, Mr Speaker, the proposed Bill provides that the ICAC is not subject to the direction and control of any person or authority. 

Mr Speaker, once the ICAC becomes operational it will naturally take over the good work that the Sweep Team has been doing.

Mr. Speaker, the ICAC will complement the work of the Ombudsman Commission and the Police. It will not subsume their functions. The Ombudsman Commission will continue to administer the Leadership Code and ensure leaders remain accountable. The Police will continue to carry out their fraud and anti-corruption work supporting the ICAC in the public and private sectors.

Mr Speaker, putting a stop to corruption is everyone's business. Work is currently being done by the Department of Prime Minster & NEC and Justice & Attorney General to embed the message of anti-corruption and good governance in our schools and tertiary institutions. We must educate our youth so they can become better citizens tomorrow.

Mr Speaker, this is not the only anti-corruption initiative of this Government. This Government is also preparing Whistle-blower and Freedom of Information legislation. This will enable people to get access to information and if they make a complaint - they can expect a certain level of protection.

Mr Speaker, I want to encourage every Member of this House not to fear the ICAC but to embrace it as a step in the right direction to reducing the tide of corruption in our Country.

I commend the Bill to the House.

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