‘Sextortion’ problem for Pacific states – but lower for Fiji, says report

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Sex currency of bribes
Sex reportedly the currency of bribes and people have been coerced into engaging in sexual acts in exchange for essential services. Image: Fiji Times screenshot APR

By Anish Chand in Suva

Of 1000 Fijians surveyed by Transparency International, 11 percent claimed they were asked for sexual favours in exchange for government services or benefits at least once in the past five years.

The survey titled, “Global Corruption Barometer — Pacific Report”, was based on data collected by Tebbutt Research in Fiji between February and March this year.

The report said on the issue of sexual extortion or “sextortion”, sex became the currency of the bribe and people were coerced into engaging in sexual acts in exchange for essential services — including health care and education.

Respondents were asked if an official in Fiji made requests of a sexual nature in exchange for a government service or benefits.

However, Fiji’s 11 percent sextortion rate was much lower than other Pacific states, including French Polynesia, which has a 92 percent rate.

“Despite these findings, respondents across the Pacific appear to have difficulty assessing the extent of the problem,” the report read.

“It is worth noting that around a fifth of respondents (17 percent) say that they do not know how often sextortion occurs in their countries.

“It could point to a need for further investigation and community dialogue to better understand and address this heinous form of corruption.”

Survey merely confirms public perception, says Chaudhry

Chaudhry says poll ‘no surprise’
Wanshika Kumar reports that Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said the Transparency International survey merely confirmed a widespread public perception that corruption had become endemic in the country.

Chaudhry said it was no surprise that the poll showed that the majority of the people believed there were high levels of corruption in government and the business sector.

“What else can one expect when the FijiFirst government refuses to enact constitutionally mandated legislation intended to curb corruption in high public office,” Chaudhry said.

“Section 149 of the imposed 2013 Constitution calls for a Code of Conduct for the President, Speaker, Prime Minister and other government ministers, members of Parliament and other high public officeholders.

“Likewise, Section 150 mandates the enactment of a Freedom of Information legislation to give members of the public the right to access official information and government documents.

“Section 121 calls for an independent Accountability and Transparency Commission with the jurisdiction, authority and powers to receive and investigate complaints against all persons holding a public office.

“Yet, in the past eight years, the government has ignored repeated calls to enact these laws to curb corruption in high public office and the business sector.

“What conclusions can be drawn from its failure to do so? If it were genuinely interested in tackling corrupt practices, it would have introduced these measures long ago.”

Lack of accountability
Chaudhry said another reason for high levels of corruption in public office was a worrying lack of accountability and transparency in the government’s handling of public funds.

“Contracts are either awarded without tenders being called or more often than not, are awarded without due disclosure of the details,” he said.

“We have received reports from several companies to say that they have stopped bidding for public tenders because of the lack of transparency in the handling of contracts.”

He said the appointment of executives of large businesses to the boards of government commercial companies or statutory authorities in situations of conflict of interest was also of serious concern.

“Indeed, some big wigs in government are seen to be too close to top guns in the corporate sector,” he said.

“It is no wonder that more than two-thirds of our people believe corruption is high in government circles.”

Anish Chand and Wanshika Kumar are Fiji Times reporters. This report is republished with permission.

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