Ombudsman Commission responds to the article on page 7 of The National of 22 November 2022

Sinai Waiting for Oc’s consent on Lagaip Seat

This press release is in response to the article that appeared on page 7 of The National of 22 November 2022.

On 22 November 2022, the Electoral Commissioner (EC), Mr Simon Sinai, stated that he has been waiting for the Ombudsman Commission to give clearance or approval on whether to declare election on Lagaip Electorate as failed. 

Mr Sinai said, “based on what OC decides, we might go into counting or go back to by election”. He stated that he “is waiting for Ombudsman Commission’s consent and clearance, and also advice for him to make the declaration.” 

For the Electoral Commissioner to tell the public that he was waiting for the Ombudsman Commission to give approval or consent to declare a failed election is very irresponsible and calculated with malicious intent and insinuations against the Ombudsman Commission

The Electoral Commissioner has wide powers in dealing with election matters. The Electoral Commissioner is supposed to be the expert in the running of election and he is the only person with the responsibility to ensure elections are run properly.

The Ombudsman Commission strongly refutes the claim as it cannot step in to interfere with the exercise of the powers of the Electoral Commissioner. The Electoral Commission is an independent authority existing at arms-length and it is not subject to direction and control by any person or authority in the exercise of its powers and the performance of its functions in dealing with election matters. 

Section 126 (6) of the Constitution is very clear and it gives complete independence to the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Commissioner in performing his functions. 

List decisions relating to the conduct of the National Election must not be interfered, subtracted or added by any person or government authority, including the Ombudsman Commission. The Electoral Commissioner’s decision and actions on the conduct of Elections are not subject to Ombudsman Commission’s approval and if so, will bring into question the Electoral Commission’s independence.

If Mr Sinai allows the Ombudsman Commission to decide/approve/consents to the conduct of the Lagaip Election, the Ombudsman Commission will infringe the constitutional independence of the Electoral Commission. 

The Ombudsman Commission strongly suggests that the Electoral Commissioner shall establish an Election Advisory Committee (EAC) without delay as required under Section 96C of the Organic Law on the National and Local-level Government Election to assist him.

For the Lagaip Electorate, the Ombudsman Commission is of the view that there may have been a total failure in the conduct of the election in this District and given such circumstances the Electoral Commissioner shall exercise his powers that are set out in Section 97(2) of the Organic Law on the National and Local-level Government Election, as such issues are vested in the Electoral Commissioner and the Electoral Commission alone.

The Ombudsman Commission has the duty under Section 218 of the Constitution to ensure all government bodies are responsive to the needs and aspiration of the people, and to help in the improvement of the work of government bodies and eliminating unfairness and the “needs and aspiration of the people” includes free, fair and democratic elections which the Electoral Commission is SOLELY responsible to facilitate.  

In any election matter, the only assistance that the Ombudsman Commission gives to the Electoral Commissioner is by virtue of Section 96C of the Organic Law on the National Elections and Local level Election, through the Chief Ombudsman’s involvement as a Member of the Election Advisory Committee which purpose is to advise the Electoral Commissioner and to help improve the Electoral Commissioner in his work so as to make sound and fair judgments and to give effect to free and democratic election that the people aspire. This can ONLY be done at the invitation of the Electoral Commissioner. 

The Ombudsman Commission cannot approve or reject any decision or declaration by the Electoral Commissioner on the exercise of his functions on election matters, as this can be seen as interfering with constitutional independence of Electoral Commissioner. 

Such public insinuation has the potential of raising serious and specific legal questions about the integrity of the Ombudsman Commission and its responsibility of supervising and enforcing the Leadership Code. The Ombudsman Commission does not intend to engage in any debate on the issues raised but the manner in which the Electoral Commissioner is pushing his responsibilities to the Ombudsman Commission is questionable.

The Electoral Commissioner must be steadfast in his decision making when he is faced with tough situations and he must make decisions that will NOT call into question his integrity and the integrity of his position and office.

As a leader the Electoral Commissioner is reminded that he has a duty under the Constitution to make honest decisions in compliance with the laws and regulations of this country and not on the contrary. Where decisions are not made in compliance with the law, the Ombudsman Commission stands ready to take the necessary steps. 

The Ombudsman Commission as an independent constitutional institution and has specific role and function and it is empowered to investigate the Electoral Commissioner’s conduct under the Leadership Code where there are allegations of breaches of the Leadership Code, or wrong conduct or defective legislation and practices – based on the law and the evidence, the Ombudsman Commission will investigate and it would like to emphasize that it carries out its functions diligently with no fear or favor as mandated by the Constitution.    

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