The resignation of the Electoral Advisory Committee
The resignation of the Electoral Advisory Committee is another indication of the state of the nation.
This committee was created by law to provide advice to the Electoral Commissioner. It is a very sensible way to involve level headed individuals in giving advice to a constitutional office.
Constitutional office holders occupy essential, independent but often very lonely chairs. There is value in them being conscious of the need to consult widely without limit to their independence. We
saw the inclusion of the committee in the law as being an affirmation of the value we all see of seeking advice.
When Transparency International PNG was invited to nominate a person for appointment to the committee we did so eagerly. Contrary to some misconceptions of our role we embrace opportunities to work with government to help bring about improvement in the way we are governed. Involvement of our nominees in committees and boards offering advice is one way assisting.
Unfortunately the EAC was not activated before the 2007 or 2012 elections. It could have played a useful role in the years between elections. So much needed to be achieved and in our view more could have been achieved if the EAC was involved.
With the 2017 elections looming only 5 years away our nominee continued to encourage the activation of the committee so that the Commissioner could be strengthened by regular meetings.
When we were finally recently asked to reaffirm our support we did so, looking forward to the Commissioner taking advantage of its role. We also stressed the importance of advice being given on the basis of facts being presented with details of options considered. This would assist ensure that it was indeed providing advice and not simply being told of some of the decisions were being made.
The EAC is an important part of the role of the community in advising the Commissioner. In fact the advice provided to the Commissioner needs to be much broader than this source. Elected MPs should also be seriously consulted as should candidates not elected, members of the public service and the wider community.
The burden of consulting widely is a challenge, given the massive administrative challenges faced by any constitutional office holder but it is part of the job.
We are disappointed to the learn that members of the Committee have found it necessary to resign but respect their duty to do so if they are not receiving the information necessary for them to give fully informed advice.
This is not the first time our nominees to important roles have felt compelled to resign rather than be compromised by failures of the institutions to follow due process.
We see it as yet another reminder that the institutions of government need to be encouraged to see that they can perform better and should not expect to be unchallenged.
TI PNG is involved and will continue to be involved with government institutions committed to improvement.
We encourage the Electoral Commission to embrace the decision of the members of the EAC as a step in continuing to strengthen its role as an essential, proudly independent, corruption free and effective constitutional office.