PNG politicians’ grab power to misuse public money
Peter Jackson writes: THE PNG PARLIAMENT has weakened the investigative powers of the Ombudsman Commission and diluted politicians’ accountability for spending government funds.
It has established a so-called ‘parliamentary ombudsman committee’ that will make inquiries of its own.
This removes the independent power of the Commission to investigate matters such as politicians’ and departmental heads’ travel and the disbursement of regional funds.
All the politicians in the House were in on the act, voting 83-0 to amend the section of the Constitution empowering the Commission to issue directives to ministers and heads of departments.
Section 27(4) allows the Ombudsman to issue directives to prevent payments from public funds to these officeholders if it feels there is impropriety.
In the past, the Commission has used this provision to stop MPs taking overseas trips when it felt the trips were a waste of public funds and has prevented the Finance Department issuing cheques if it felt the motives were political.
The Commission froze the RESI (Rehabilitation Education Sector Infrastructure) funds last year after allegations that millions of kina were misappropriated.
It has been alleged that RESI funds were misused and diverted away from Kerevat national high school, an issue covered extensively by PNG Attitudeearlier this year.
Introducing the amendments as a private motion, Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina said section 27(4) had been used by the Ombudsman many times to stop cheques, thus preventing the implementation of government policy.
“We want to make it very clear that the action of the Ombudsman in issuing such directives is wrong,” he said.
Mr Maladina said there had been many physical confrontations between officers of the Ombudsman and PNG leaders at the international airport, as the ‘leaders’ sought to take trips that the Ombudsman considered inappropriate.
Let last year, an assassination attempt was made on the life of the Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek.The gunmen were caught but their motive has not been esablished.
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