Case 5.1 – Independent Commission Against Corruption

Case 5.1 – Independent Commission Against Corruption

In February 2014 the O’Neill government made the first step to set up the ICAC when it introduced and passed constitutional amendments to put in place the basic framework for the legislation (Allens, 2014). The organic law bill is still in the National Parliament for final reading and was supposed to be tabled before the last parliament rose for the 2017 General Election.

The failure by the last parliament to table the organic law bill for the final reading now leaves that responsibility to the new National Parliament and the incoming government. But all is not lost on the technocrats’ front with a National Anti-Corruption Technical Committee – comprising officials from various departments including the Department of Prime Minister and NEC, Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Ombudsman Commission – meeting and working behind-the-scenes to progress the ICAC agenda.

In April 2017 Sam Koim, the leader of anti-corruption body Taskforce Sweep, withdraw his Supreme Court appeal against a National Court judicial review which upheld the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) to abolish Taskforce Sweep (Pokiton, 2017). Mr Koim’s decision means Taskforce Sweep no longer exist as an entity.

But the issue of the 2014 arrest warrant against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, relating to his alleged role in authorising the payment of legal fees to Paul Paraka Lawyers, continues to cast a shadow over the current government’s ICAC agenda and create doubt in the minds of the people. The disbanding of Taskforce Sweep and the attempt by the Police Commissioner Gari Baki to shut down the police’s National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate will compel the public to question the viability of an ICAC in PNG, especially when current leaders are implicated.

Update as of 2018

In February 2014, the O’Neill government made the first step to set up the ICAC when it introduced and passed constitutional amendments to put in place the basic framework for the legislation (Allens, 2014). The organic law bill is still in the National Parliament for final reading and was supposed to be tabled before the last parliament rose for the 2017 General Election.

The failure by the last parliament to table the organic law bill for the final reading now leaves that responsibility to the current National Parliament and the current government. But all is not lost on the technocrats’ front with a National Anti-Corruption Technical Committee – comprising officials from various departments including the Department of Prime Minister and NEC, Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Ombudsman Commission – meeting and working behind-the-scenes to progress the ICAC agenda.

In April 2017 Sam Koim, the leader of anti-corruption body Taskforce Sweep, withdrew his Supreme Court appeal against a National Court judicial review which upheld the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) to abolish Taskforce Sweep (Pokiton, 2017). Mr Koim’s decision means Taskforce Sweep no longer exist as an entity.

In September 2018, the NEC approved the re-establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption interim office to be headed by a senior officer Thomas Eluh as the Chairman (Nicholas, Post Courier, 2018). ). In setting up of the ICAC interim office, the Prime Minister allocated K6 million (The National, 2018). The Prime Minister announced that the ICAC’s first task was to “conduct investigation and prosecute individuals implicated in the misuse of funds in the recently concluded audit into the OK Tedi landowner trust accounts” (Nicholas, Post Courier, 2018). He further stated that he would refer the “complaint raised by Western Province Governor Taboi Yoto about a K15 million withdrawn from a trust account by a legal firm in Port Moresby” (Nicholas, Post Courier, 2018). In addition, the ICAC will investigate any case directed to it by NEC (Wokasup, TIPNG, 2018). All the the files and assets of the Investigative Task Force Sweep were to be transferred to the new interim ICAC office (The National, 2018).

This interim ICAC is however, not an independent investigative body for corruption. In response to the re-establishment of interim ICAC, TIPNG had called on the NEC to clarify the legal basis of this interim ICAC (Wokasup,TIPNG, 2018). TIPNG had also urged the Department of Justice & Attorney General and other agencies responsible for processing the ICAC Bill to enable wider public consultation as Papua New Guinea needs an ICAC that is independent and effective (Wokasup, TIPNG, 2018). It was stated that this process needs to be executed immediately and thoroughly, especially when it was reported that the Government considered modifying the Bill to remove powers of the proposed ICAC (Wokasup, TIPNG, 2018).

In August 2017, the Minister for Justice and Attorney General Davies Steven announced that he is committed to ensure that the ICAC Bill is tabled in the next sitting of Parliament (Loop PNG, 2017). Nevertheless,  the issue of the 2014 arrest warrant against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill relating to his alleged role in authorising the payment of legal fees to Paul Paraka Lawyers continues to cast a shadow over the current government’s ICAC agenda and create doubt in the minds of the people. The disbanding of Taskforce Sweep, the attempt by the Police Commissioner Gari Baki to shut down the police’s National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, and the re-establishment of the ICAC interim office, will compel the public to question the viability of an ICAC in PNG, especially when current leaders are implicated.   The ICAC was established to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption independently, both the in the public and private sectors.To this day, the ICAC bill has not been passed and has become overdue for tabling in the Parliament.

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