ICAC draft legislation under fire in PNG

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DEAR EDITOR, yesterday in Honiara, the Acting Prime Minister, the Hon. Manasseh Maelanga received a petition from the representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) calling on the government to re-introduce its anti-corruption bill at the next parliamentary session.

The acting PM said he accepted the petition on behalf of the Democratic for Change Coalition Government and announced that the anti-corruption bill is with the Cabinet and, as soon as it is finalised it will go to Parliament at the upcoming sitting in October.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring PNG, the ICAC draft legislation to be submitted to the PNG Parliament has come under fire.

Quoting Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) today, Wednesday, a bulletin claimed:

“Papua New Guinea’s government has been accused of watering down the powers of a draft Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC.

“After his recent re-election, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill appeared to finally be advancing his long-running promise to introduce ICAC legislation.

“However his government’s amended draft legislation removed the powers of arrest and prosecution in earlier ICAC drafts.

“It also placed the Prime Minister in charge of appointing the Commissioners.

“These changes were announced by the Minister for Justice, Davis Stevens.

“The anti-corruption NGO, Act Now, said they rendered the ICAC ‘toothless’ and open to political interference.

“Act Now said denying ICAC full powers of arrest and prosecution meant it would not be able to act independently and effectively to investigate and prosecute those guilty of corruption.

“It also criticised government for not publishing a full copy of the draft legislation.

“Act Now said that under the changes signalled by Mr Stevens, ICAC investigators would be dependent on other agencies like the police and public prosecutor to ensure their findings were acted upon.

“This has been one of the weaknesses in the existing anti-corruption bodies as police and public prosecutor are already overwhelmed, under funded and subject to political interference,” said the NGO.

“The government’s proposed ICAC will be as toothless as the Commissions of Inquiry it is supposed to improve on!

“It is essential the ICAC is fully independent of other government agencies and full funded to investigate, charge and prosecute those accused of corruption.”

Yours sincerely

FRANK SHORT