OC saves the State more than K300 million during Election

The Ombudsman Commission saved the State more than K300 million 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.

This was contained in the Ombudsman Commission 2017 Annual Report.

Acting Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen when presenting the 2016 and 2017 Report said, before the Commission issued the Direction, there were millions of Kina in these government accounts. By the time the Direction was issued only about K500 million was left from which K200 million was used through the screening process which left the K300 million after the Election.

“I urged Members of Parliament to use these funds to bring necessary services to the people and not wait until the election period which could be seen as a way of luring voters” said the Acting Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen.

Other notable achievements include a wide range of court proceedings which the Commission dealt with successfully including the filing of three (3) Special References under Section 19 of the Constitution. These include questions on:

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.

There were also three (3) referrals to the Public Prosecutor in 2017.

The Commission during its operations also encountered a number of challenges especially in recruitment of officers to fill in the various vacant positions.

“We are competing with the private sector to attract the best officers and obviously we are always at the losing end as private sector pays better than the government” said the Acting Chief.

Another major challenge for the Commission was its movement from the Tower, downtown to Petromin Haus, Two (2) Mile. This was one of the factors affecting the production of the two Annual Reports.

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