Corruption hinders development that could benefit all citizens, which is why media is key in tackling unethical practices of public officials, John Hyde, Anti-Corruption Consultant of the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project said during an anti-corruption training with the Palau Media Council last week.
Mr. Hyde said “there is a cost to corruption,” which takes away taxpayers’ money from schools, hospitals and environmental protection.
“The government would have more money to spend on medical health, the government would have more money to spend for the better of children’s education, the government would have more money to protect the environment. There is a cost to corruption.” Hyde said.
He used an example of a family in Tonga, who were importing Chinese water diverters, where they would attach it to the water meter and it would record a 100th of what it really was, which saved them thousands of dollars’ worth of water.
Hyde said until one day, one person thought that this was very wrong, very ethically wrong and reported the crime.
The wrongdoing was reported and because laws and Constitution can protect whistleblowers, the one who reported the illegal practice was never revealed.
In Palau, the same protection is given to media and whistleblowers.
“The constitution is the highest empowering document that the nation has, he added.
“Palau journalists already have a super-power – Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution says bona fide reporters may not be required to divulge information obtained in the course of a professional investigation to the government,” said Mr. Hyde.
He also said that there is whistleblower protection for Palau citizens going to the Public Auditor.
“It’s very tough for journalists in the Pacific – in our small communities you are often called upon to report about relatives and friends. It’s easy to report about your relatives getting awards or catching a big fish – but if you are an ethical journalist you also have to make sure that wrongdoings are exposed.” (Kerdeu Uong)