Chief Ombudsman calls for greater transparency in light of Justin Tkatchenko issue and US Defense Agreement

The issue involving Moresby South MP Hon Justin Tkatchenko and the Defense Coorperation Agreement signed between the US and PNG highlights the need for transparency and accountability in government institutions, Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen told student and staff at the Divine Word University during an awareness session in Madang province on July 26, 2023.
Mr Pagen said the issues also highlighted the importance of the Ombudsman Commission’s role as stated in Section 218 of the Constitution and that is to ensure that government bodies are responsive to the needs and the aspiration of the people.
Regarding the Tkatchenko case, Mr. Pagen said the Ombudsman Commission is aware of the public outcry and had called the Member to come and explain to the Commission his actions as a leader.
He said he cannot give a timeline to the investigation because investigations have their own processes. The Ombudsman Commission will formally give an announcement of the outcome of its investigation once it is completed.
Regarding the Defense Agreement between the US and PNG the Chief Ombudsman said that this agreement is concerned with defense cooperation and also to counter illicit transnational maritime activity operations but not many people are aware of these details.
He said this highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in government and public institutions, and the need for public officials to act in the best interests of their constituents.
Mr Pagen said the Ombudsman Commission will continue to do its work to ensure that government policies and decisions are done in the best interest of the people while highlighting the Commission role in many issues within the country that the Ombudsman Commission has intervened in to protect public interest. These included:

• The revocation of title given to private developer who bought Ela Beach (Era Kone) in 2017 and ensured that the beach was a returned back to the state and be used as a public recreation area.

• Completion of road maintenance from Bulolo Junction to Yalu Bridge and Yalu Bridge to NADZAB Airport Freeway road construction in 2021;

• Intervention in the School Fee hike by the Divine Word University, University of Papua New Guinea and University of Goroka in 2022 which resulted in the universities not increasing the school fees for that academic year and also resulted in the government honoring its commitment to provide the necessary funds to them for their upkeep on time.

The Commission’s awareness program at Divine Word University in Madang on 26 July 2023 is part of its ongoing efforts to inform and educate the public and student body of Universities on the Roles and Functions of the Ombudsman Commission. The Chief Ombudsman was accompanied by a few members of his senior management team.
Present during the awareness presentation was the DWU President Professor Father Philip Gibbs, his senior staff, and the student body.

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