The Office of the Ombudsman of Solomon Islands (OOSI) has commenced a major awareness program to Provincial Government Authorities starting in March 2018. This was after the gazetting of the new Ombudsman Act 2017 by the Office of the Prime Minister, which gives effect to the new law that comes into force on 31 January 2018.
So far OOSI Officers have visited the Malaita Provincial Government and the Honiara City Council and have given PowerPoint presentations on the new law to Provincial Government Workers and the Provincial Government Assembly Members of both provincial authorities.
During the awareness talk at the Honiara City Council (HCC) Chamber, the Director of Legal Services of OOSI, Mr. Nelson Dhita, highlighted the purpose of the new Act is to address weaknesses identified in the old Act.
Areas of improvement are seen in the provisions for increase manpower and resources, independence of the Office in terms of budget head, establishment of effective arrangements with other bodies, delegation of powers, the power to investigate government contractors and agents, referral mechanisms and the dramatic increase in penalties.
The Director also explained the rights and privileges of complainant(s) and person(s) investigated during the process of the Ombudsman investigation. Furthermore, the Director stressed that corruption can thrive in weak administrative system, thus the role of the Ombudsman’s Office to investigate maladministration related issues can encourage systematic improvements.
In response, a representative from the Honiara City Council thanked the Ombudsman’s Office for educating them on the new Ombudsman Act 2017 and has expressed their willingness to work with the Office in the future.
Similar presentation was done in Auki to Members of the Malaita Provincial Assembly by the OOSI Legal Officer, Ms. Talei Jacob Mali, and the Principal Research Officer, Mr. Rex Akomae.
OOSI anticipates visiting the rest of the Provincial Government Authorities in Solomon Islands, as well as rolling out the program to government ministries, schools and communities starting in 2018.