PNG Parliament passes Ombudsman bill

PNG Parliament House

A Member of Papua New Guinea Parliament found guilty under the Leadership Code and dismissed from office will stay out for five years before taking up a public office and not three years as it is under the current law.

Head of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that have not been subject to the Leadership Code like the managing director of Mineral Resources and National Airport Corporation, among others, will now fall under the Leadership Code and they will be subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman Commission.

Parliament voted 86-0, in favour of the consequential amendment to the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission, the amendment to the Organics Laws on the duties and responsibilities of leadership, and the amendment to section 31 and section 219(1) (a) (1v) of the Constitution.

The Prime Minister James Marape who presented the Amendment said that the purpose of the proposed amendment on the Constitution is based on the Alotau Accord one of 2012 for the review of the Ombudsman Commissions Laws and that is focused on changes that would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the Commission.

He said the proposed amendment to the Section 31 of the Constitution will restrict the rights of leaders accordingly by increasing the exclusionary terms in which a person may be restricted to stand for or hold public office as a result of being guilty of misconduct in office.

Through the proposed amendment, a leader’s who is dismissed through a leadership code will be dismissed for a duration of five years from the current three years.

In relations to fines, the amendment states that the penalty fee of K500 (US$141) be increased to K5,000(US$1,411) and imprisonment for three months to 12 months if found guilty by the Leadership Tribunal.

Under Section 219(1) (a) of the Constitution, the Ombudsman Commission’s jurisdiction has been expanded to investigate State Services, government bodies including Provincial and Local level Governments who are supported by public monies and that includes the State owned Enterprises (and its officials including) MRDC and National Airport Corporation among others.

Marape said earlier that the Ombudsman Commission will not be disbanded as many speculated but said the government sees the importance of the functions of Ombudsman Commission and the roles they play in investigating under the leadership code and they have made amendments to strengthen the work of the institution.

He said the process of reforming the Ombudsman Commission will continue to rise above the current impediment that exist currently at Ombudsman Commission.

He said this is part of the progress of cleaning up the whole Government process as the nation reaches 50 years of Independence.

Marape said the Amendment to the Organic law on Ombudsman Commission includes the amendment to section to 4 (1) that prescribes the qualification of the Ombudsman Commission like the character, integrity and independence to apply as Chief Ombudsman.

He said under Section 10, the retirement age of 55 is now increased to 60 while Section 17(2) now gives the rights for OC investigations and information can be shared with the police if criminal conduct is detected. Meanwhile, the increase of penalty from three years to five years, former Attorney General and now Minister for Petroleum and Energy Kerenga Kua said the increased in penalty in the amendment is still too soft and believes that any leader found guilty and dismissed from office should be banned from taking up public office for life.

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