PORT MORESBY - The Papua New Guinea government has amended draft legislation for an Independent Commission Against Corruption to remove some of its most critical powers, opening the doors to political interference.
The government is watering down the powers of the ICAC and will be creating exactly the kind of 'toothless monster' the secretary for justice has written about.
The government changes were announced at a UPNG Seminar last week by Minister for Justice Davis Stevens.
He said the government has removed ICAC’s powers of arrest and prosecution and placed the prime minister in charge of the appointments process for commissioners.
Act Now! has been leading a campaign for ICAC to be established within the government’s first 100 days and has collected more than 2,000 signatures on its petition, but we are dismayed at the government’s changes.
Denying ICAC full powers of arrest and prosecution means it will not be able to act independently and effectively to investigate, prosecute and ensure those guilty of corruption are punished.
Instead ICAC investigators will be dependent on other agencies like the police and public prosecutor to ensure their findings are acted upon.
This has been one of the weaknesses in the existing anti-corruption bodies as police and public prosecutor are already overwhelmed, under resourced and subject to political interference.
Over the past 20 years there have been numerous commissions of inquiry that have recommended dozens of prosecutions for misusing and stealing public funds, but time and again the police and public prosecutor have failed to follow up. The new ICAC should not be adopting this failed system.
The government’s proposed ICAC will be as toothless as the commissions of inquiry it is supposed to improve on.
It is essential that ICAC is fully independent of other government agencies and fully funded to investigate, charge and prosecute those accused of corruption.
Act Now! is also critical of the government’s failure to publish a full copy of the draft legislation and its intention to put the prime minister in charge of the panel appointing the commissioners.
The government talks about transparency and an ‘independent’ commission, but it is hiding the amended draft legislation and wants to ensure political control.
The people of PNG deserve and demand better.