OC urges MPs to consider legislative changes

The Ombudsman Commission has expressed disappointment for what he believes as an unnecessary delay by Parliament in passing key changes into its enabling laws and has called on Parliament to pass the bill in when Parliament resumes on 22 February 2022.

During its sitting last week, the Commission’s Legislative Review Project was introduced in Parliament.

This Project begun in 2013 when it was identified as one of the Government’s key priorities for the Commission as per the ALOTAU ACCORD 1 of 2012.

The Laws are designed to ensure that the Ombudsman Commission is best placed to meet its Constitutional responsibilities, both now and into the future.   

This is the first review of the enabling legislation for the Commission since its inception in 1975 and an extensive consultation process started in 2013 to ascertain views of stakeholders and the broader community on how best to reform its legislation.

It is and has been a significant project for the future of the Ombudsman Commission in the country.

Significant being that corruption has evolved and mutated over the years and is now slowly eating away at the very fabric of our society and so institutions such as the ombudsman must also be improved and equipped with effective laws to combat this growing threat within our country.

In recent years, the work of the Ombudsman Commission has at times been controversial. A series of high profile Leadership cases has raised questions in some quarters not just about the efficiency and effectiveness with which the Commission undertakes its role but more fundamentally about the appropriateness of the role itself.  

A Special Parliamentary Committee was established in 2005 to look into the work of the Ombudsman Commission.

However, the Committee was disbanded before it published a report. The results of the Committee’s work will never be known.  

The Chief Ombudsman expressed disappointment when the house decided to adjourn its legislative changes to the next sitting.

 “With all necessary due process complete, I was dismayed that Parliament did not even attempt to pass the bills for the nation to know which leaders are genuinely concerned for the country’s good governance and good leadership.”

“After over 9 years of work with extensive consultation, parliament could have allowed it to go through.

Mr Pagen is calling on the Prime Minister and his government plus all members of Parliament to show leadership by passing these amendments which will strengthen this “crucial integrity and good governance institution.”  

Key proposals in the reforms relates to alternate penalties like fines instead of referral to leadership tribunal for misdemeanors such as late submission of annual returns, increase in the terms of dismissal from years to five years; increase in the age limit of employees as well as limit the terms for the chief ombudsman and ombudsman to only two terms.

Furthermore, the amendment seeks to extend Ombudsman Commission’s jurisdiction on the Government’s business arms so the Ombudsman Commission can investigate any wrong or administrative conducts.

“These are good relevant reforms and a responsible government and parliament would pass such laws,” the Chief Ombudsman said.

“And with time running out before the next election, I challenge the members of parliament to deliver on it when it resumes on the 22nd of February 2022”.

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