The Chief Ombudsman appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Laws and Acts and Subordinate Legislation Committee on Constitutional Laws and Acts and Subordinate Legislation on 22 March 2023 from 9:30 am to 10:15 am.
The purpose of the Chief Ombudsman’s appearance was for the Commission to explain specific matters with regard to its Legislative Review Project, in particular, the changes proposed in the Constitution; Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership (Amendment )Law 2023, and the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission (Amendment) Law 2023.
The Ombudsman Commission’s Legislative Review Project began 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 changes in the Laws are designed to ensure that the Ombudsman Commission is best placed to meet its Constitutional responsibilities, both now and into the future.
The Committee comprised of Hon. Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas, KBE, GCL, MP, as the Chairman; Hon. Simon Domarinu MP, as a member and Hon. Daniel Tindipu as Members and support staff of the Committee on Constitutional Laws and Acts and Subordinate Legislation heard from the Chief Ombudsman who provided a comprehensive presentation of these laws that guide the operations of the Ombudsman Commission touching on the following:-
- The lengthy vacancy in the appointment process resulting in the Commission operating as a two (2)-Member Commission rather than the legal requirement of 3 Members of the Commission as required under Section 217 of the Constitution;
- The important inclusion of a provision similar to Section 14 Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission (OLOC) into the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership to bring consistency as Section 3 (Application of this Law) of the OLOC provides that OLOC does not apply to the powers, functions, duties, and responsibilities of the Ombudsman Commission under Division III.2 (leadership code) of the Constitution;
- The necessary inclusion of the Ombudsman Commissions jurisdiction over State Owned Enterprises (SOEs);
- Inclusion of jurisdiction to mediate for an outcome-based report in addition to the investigations under Section 17 OLOC;
- Issuance of Annual Statements, – discretion to be given to the Commission to deal with breaches rather than referral which should only be used as a last resort;
- Ombudsman Commission gave the discretion to grant an extension of time to leaders to file Annual Statements out of time;
- Penalty provision amendments warrant dismissal of 5 years rather than 10 as approved by the NEC although during an extensive consultation process that started in 2013.
The Ombudsman Commission is hopeful that with the support of the Prime Minister, who is the Minister responsible for the Ombudsman Commission, the proposed changes will be passed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the Commission.