Puna made the comments at the region’s first ever Leaders’ Anti-Corruption summit, hosted by Kiribati, earlier this month.
The two-day Pacific Unity Against Corruption Conference was also attended by leaders and representatives from Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
The Pacific leaders and representatives adopted a ground-breaking vision during the summit and endorsed commitments that build on their national engagement with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Teiniwa Vision recognises the importance of strong leadership and building political will in order to tackle corruption.
Henry Puna and the other leaders said they recognise the importance of political will and leadership at all levels in addressing corruption.
“We call on all Pacific Leaders to champion integrity and advocate and implement anti-corruption practices in their Parliaments, public services, private sectors and entire communities through commitment to criminalisation of corruption and prompt, impartial investigation and prosecution,” they said in the Vision.
“We commit to governing in an accountable manner wherein all leaders, persons with authority, Cabinets, parliamentarians and public servants adhere to their Leadership Codes and/or codes of conduct.
“We commit to developing and maintaining independent integrity bodies or appropriate coordination mechanisms that prevent and fight corruption;
“We recognise and support the right to information, the need to protect genuine whistle-blowers and for an independent civil society and responsible media to be involved in national and regional anti-corruption efforts.
“We commit to further strengthen good practices in public finance management and to conduct corruption risk assessments in vulnerable sectors.”
The leaders acknowledged that corruption disproportionately affects vulnerable
populations, especially women, persons with disabilities, youth and the elderly.
They recognised that all of the progress and aspirations for a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous Pacific cannot be realised unless corruption is addressed.
They encouraged all Pacific states to unite against corruption, recognising that implementation should be substantiated through well-resourced national efforts that emphasise transparency and accountability, the rule of law and reinforce good governance.