OC presents its annual reports to Governor-General

The Ombudsman Commission is pleased to present the 2016 and 2017 Annual Reports to the Governor-General to be tabled in Parliament.

The two Reports highlight all the achievements and challenges that the Commission has encountered during the two years of its operations. Some of the highlights in 2016 include:

  • Opening of OC office in AROB

Ombudsman Commission extended its services to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), ‘Office of the Bougainville Ombudsman’ and the PNG Ombudsman Commission in June 2016. This was part of AROB’s preparation for referendum which took place in June 2019.

  • National General Elections Awareness Preparations

Another highlight was the preparation of the 2017 National General Elections awareness. The Ombudsman Commission conducted consultations throughout the country to inform respective provincial administrations on its intention to conduct awareness before the National General Elections. The Commission visited 21 Provincial Administrations except for the National Capital District Commission.

  • Consultation workshops for Legislative Review Project

The Commission’s Legislative Review Project continues to the end of the reporting period with the objective of improving its efficiency and effectiveness in having to fulfill its roles and responsibilities as set out under Section 218 of the Constitution. The review of its laws is necessary to maintain public confidence as well as the government’s confidence by ensuring that the Commission’s services are up to date and are useful and satisfying the current needs and aspirations of the people and the government of Papua New Guinea.

Public Consultative Workshops were conducted and through the public consultations, a Discussion Paper was developed for the Commission to determine its way forward for the review by identifying what needed to be reformed.

  • Change in Members of the Commission

The Ombudsman Appointments Committee appointed Mr Michael Dick as the Acting Chief Ombudsman and Mr Richard Pagen as Acting Ombudsman, following the retirement of former Ombudsman and Acting Chief Ombudsman Ms Phoebe Sangetari.

Challenges in 2016

One of the major challenges include the government imposed strict fiscal management due to the country’s general economic downturn which has caused major cuts in the organisation’s 2016 budget, affecting the operations of the Ombudsman Commission.

In 2017, the Commission again achieved a number of notable outcomes and they include:

  • Pre-election Awareness

The Commission embarked on a nationwide pre-election awareness prior the 2017 National Elections in February to April and was able to reach some of the most remote parts of the country. Commission officers held forums with eligible voters and spoke to them about good leadership qualities to help them make informed decisions when voting.

  • High turn-over rate in new MPs

People in some remote areas were made aware of the Commission’s establishment for the first time. And voters made informed decisions when casting their votes as a result of the Commission’s awareness exercise which resulted in more than 60 new members elected into Parliament.

  • Commission saved the State more than K300 million through its Direction

The Commission was able to save the State a total of K336, 669, 863 when it issued a special Direction under Section 27(4) of the Constitution to temporarily halt the use of public funds (DSIP and PSIP) during the 2017 National General Election.

  • Special References

The Commission dealt with a wide range of court proceedings including the filing of three (3) Special References under Section 19 of the Constitution and making three (3) referrals to the Public Prosecutor. The questions include:

  • Evidentiary requirements

Seeking clarifications from the Supreme Court on the question of the evidentiary requirements to be observed by a Leadership Tribunal

  • Suspension of a leader

When does suspension of a leader referred under Section 28(1) of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership. The Supreme Court ruled by majority of three to two that suspension of a leader takes effect automatically by operation of law when the Public Prosecutor refers the matter (comprising the allegations of misconduct in office and the Commission’s statement of reasons) to the tribunal at a public hearing.

  • Increase of Nomination Fee and the Security Deposit for Court of Disputed Returns

The question for determination by the Supreme Court was whether the proposed amendments to Section 103 of the Constitution and Section 87(1) & (2) and Section 209 of the Organic Law on National and Local-Level Government Elections are consistent with Section 50 of the Constitution, the right to stand for public office by placing a qualification that is NOT reasonably justifiable in a democratic society that has proper regard for the rights and dignity of mankind as required by Sections 38 and 39 of the Constitution.

  • Delay return of Writs until all seats declared

The questions posed by the Ombudsman Commission was whether Section 177(2) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Election is unconstitutional as against Section 105(3)(a) of the Constitution, in limiting the exercise of the discretion of the Electoral Commissioner in determining the date fixed for the return of the writs to be as fixed as nearly as may reasonably be to the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs for the previous general elections. At the end of 2017, the matter was pending and carried over to 2018.

Challenges in 2017

  • The Commission’s major challenge was the reduced annual appropriations which affected its ability to fully implement its annual activities.
  • The Commission relocated its Head Office from Deloitte Tower to Petromin Haus due to increasing rentals in the Central Business District.

Despite the challenges, the Commission managed to achieve most of the activities it has planned for in the two years.

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