Guise & Kerr – the Whitlam connection
Tok-singsing: danis bilong yumi iet

ICAC will not be politically independent

Eddie Tanago (2)
Eddie Tanago says the new ICAC law will bring the anti-corruption commission under the control of politicians

| Act Now!

PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption will not be free from possible political interference under the terms of the draft bill to be debated in the next session of parliament.

The prime minister will chair and the leader of the opposition will be a member of the committee that appoints both ICAC commissioners and the members of the oversight committee that will constantly review the operations, functions and powers of the ICAC.

The prime minister will also have an absolute power to block investigations into corrupt conduct where he determines the matters under investigation should be kept secret on the grounds of national security, international relations or the public interest.

Both these provisions are completely unacceptable and fundamentally undermine the basic principle of an ICAC that it must be independent and free from any possibility or even perception of political interference.

The power to block investigations on the grounds of national security, international relations or public interest is one that should be given to the chief justice who should make a determination on the basis of arguments from both the government and the ICAC.

It should not be an absolute power given to the prime minister.

Any argument that having both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition on the appointments committee somehow balances the political scales is nonsense.

Members of parliament are always swinging back and forth between the government and opposition and today’s leader of the opposition might easily be a government minister tomorrow and vice versa.

The flaw of including two politicians on the committee is compounded in Section 139, which deals with the quorum for committee meetings.

The quorum is set at just three members, and although four must agree on any appointment decision, that gives an effective power of veto to the politicians.

As well as the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, the appointments committee will comprise the chief justice, chairman of the public service commission and the chairperson of the PNG council of churches.

Both the chief justice and chair of the PSC are also appointed by committees that are chaired by the prime minister, creating another avenue for possible bias or at least its perception.

The criteria for membership of the oversight committee make very clear that anybody who is or has been a member of the national parliament or a provincial assembly or is a public official cannot be appointed.

If this is a necessary criteria in relation to the oversight committee it is illogical and contradictory for the same rule not to apply to the appointments committee.

The positions of the prime minister and leader of the opposition on the appointments committee should be replaced with two representatives from civil society and the business community, such as the president of the chamber of commerce.

Failure by the government to amend the draft law to remove the opportunity for political interference will mean any public trust in the ICAC could be fatally undermined before it has even been established.

Prime Minister James Marape has made the establishment of an ICAC a central pillar of his pledge to taking back PNG and stamp out rampant corruption.

If he allows the ICAC Bill to be passed in its current form without removing the obvious opportunities for political interference he will have failed a major test of his leadership.

Download the full Submission presented by ACT NOW! to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Laws, Acts and Subordinate Legislation


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Arthur Williams

For 50 years I have been reading media reports of corruption in PNG.

One thing I have noted is that last century we had idiots corruptly defrauding government and non-government entities for a few hundred then several thousand or occasionally even a few hundred thousand.

Now this century clever thieves have so learned their trade and it has become more frequent to read about frauds involving a million and indeed tens of millions.

Last year the PNG government gallantly provided K8 million to fund an Inquiry into the UBS Loan saga. Within four months the inquiry chairman, Sir Salamo Injia, wanted another K27 million.

This was mostly to fund the appearance of overseas lawyers who are he claimed were urgently needed.

But are they to assist the state or to represent the elites who will appear before the inquiry? If the latter then I thought a client seeking such legal advice would pay their own costs and not have the state fund them.

Already ex-Kavieng MP Ben Micah, who is implicated in the Ombudsman’s report, has sought advice from the learned jJudge of when will he get his expenses paid.

Having lost the 2017 General Election he is safely outside the clutches of the Ombudsman so can enjoy his day(s) in court.

With a host of witnesses to be called, I presume the K35 million will soon be exhausted and more funding sought.

Perhaps like a previous inquiry into the mostly illegal SABL program, the money-tree will cease bearing kina, resulting in yet another report unable to be completed.

And the PNG people will be expected to forget the commissions of the perpetrators so that in 2022 some of the MPs involved will be able to stand again for high office promising to serve not themselves but their people and their nation.

Yesterday was PNG’s National Day of Remembrance, a public holiday. Perhaps an opportunity for the sinners to quaff their SPs on their verandahs as they write their abject admissions of guilt.

They will decide to save their nation from wasting badly needed funds that could otherwise be used in fighting a Covid-19.

Then again perhaps they felt no guilt about what they had done to cost PNG the more than K420 million evapoated in this dubious UBS deal.

Being a non-newspaper day I took the opportunity to read the 475 pages of the 2018/12/30 ‘Final Report on an Investigation into the Alleged Improper Borrowing of AU$1.239 Billion Loan from the Union Bank Of Switzerland’.

The report is an amazing result of the hardworking Ombudsman Commission into the UBS loan saga. It scathingly names those members of the elite involved in the complicated deal, with supporting documents listed of the huge loss of revenue caused the state.

A more readable 11 page summary of that huge report is 2019/07/17 –‘UBS, OIL SEARCH and the forgotten middle men’.

Having read either of these documents, a normal person would wonder why it is now costing K35 million or more to go over the minutiae of evidence carefully gathered by the Ombudsman’s team.

Such is the world of democratic nations’ judicial systems.

Eddie Tanago (PNG Attitude, 22 July) highlighted several weaknesses of the new ICAC that seemed to open the door to political interference.

I would like to know if the new anti-corruption body is complementary to the independent Ombudsman Commission or will it lead to its demise? Is there room in PNG for what seems a duplication of scarce resources?

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