Monday, 7 September 2009 2:39 AM

The extended powers of LCC

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to keep the ball rolling on above subject. I think it is a very important issue to discuss especially in the light of ongoing review programs back at home.

Having been correctly directed to the relevant sections of the Leadership Code Commission (Further Provisions) Act 1999 my attention ponders on the substance of the specific provisions. Sections 23 & 24 of the Act have indeed extended power to the work of LCC and have given it some "teeth to bite". In so doing it has addressed one of the inherent weaknesses of the LCC Act, and has to an extent effectively links the LCC with Solomon Islands the judicial system.

However, the irony of the given provisions, in my opinion is that it does not really provide clarity on how exactly this would be done. First of all, LCC as an oversight and governance institution carries out its own investigations as that capacity is provided for under the Act. However, if Section 23 (5) which states that: " If at any stage of the investigation, it appears to the Commission that the offence is of such a nature that it may suitably be dealt with by the Court, the Commission may refer the matter to the High Court" and Section 24 (2) which stipulates that: "Where the Commission has determined that such misconduct is of a nature that requires to be determined by the High Court, the Commission may refer such case to the High Court for determination" are applicable in a particular case then how would that be carried out?

The obvious answer is that they will 'refer' the matter to the courts. But referring a matter to the courts is more than just a mere referral. For instance, if a matter is referred to the High Court by the LCC in accordance to Sections 23 (5) and 24(2) it means that a court is to be filed in accordance to the High Court procedures. Similarly this is also applicable at the Magistrates Courts. With LCC this raises questions such as; who will file the proceedings in the courts on behalf of LCC? Who will meet the cost of the case? Who will represent LCC in the courts? The answers to these questions are literally obvious but in respect of the Act, it is silent. The Act does not provide clarity in these specific basic procedures in relation to the LCC. Another question is that does the current structural and legislative arrangement of LCC provide enough capacity for it to carry out its extended powers?

Those are some of the questions that come into my mind. It seems to me that the LCC has been given extended powers under the Act to carry out its work, but it has not been provided the required capacity to effectively enforce its powers. Under these circumstances I certainly do not think that LCC is capable to undertake its work to the level expected of it, especially in dealing with few cases simultaneously.

My view is that there is a mismatch in the legislative and structural strengthening of LCC. Its extended powers to me would imply that LCC would have to have full legal capacity just like the DPP or the Public Solicitor's Office to satisfy court procedures when referring cases; even so given its investigative powers. But currently the Act does not provide for that structural strengthening requirement. And even if it does, wouldn't that be a duplication of duties and creation of a big bureaucracy, which would lead to increased public expenditure? It's extended investigative powers under Section 26 are being questioned. However, I would envisage a system that links the LCC more strongly to the court system through the DPP, rather than totally eliminating DPP from the equation and directly linking LCC to the courts, without providing it with the capacity and resources it requires to effectively carry out its work.

On reflection I believe it is its incapability that has led to LCC's failure to enforce its powers and functions effectively. So LCC now is to me more like a lame lion; equipped with "teeth to bite" but is too weak and incapable to jump on its prey.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Derick R Manu'ari and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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