PNG Opposition Hails Push For Anti-Corruption Bill

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Sam Basil calls for wider consultations on ICAC operations

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 17, 2013) – The Opposition has welcomed the Prime Minister’s determination to fast-track the passing of Papua New Guinea’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Bill and the establishment of the anti-graft body.

Deputy Opposition leader Sam Basil, however, called on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for wider consultations and sectoral input before the bill goes to Parliament.

Mr. Basil said in a statement yesterday the ICAC Bill had its history during the previous People’s National Congress (PNC) reign from 1997 to 1999 by its leader and Prime Minister late Sir William Skate, followed by similar calls by various Ministers to introduce the ICAC Bill but to no avail.

He said the same was now vigorously being promoted by another PNC leader and PM O’Neill since taking office in August 2011, and again after the 2012 elections.

"The Prime Minister must be reminded that most of the clients of ICAC, if established and functioning, would be members of Parliament (former and current), followed by departmental heads and public servants therefore the draft ICAC Bill must have wider consultations and sectoral input from relevant agencies to ensure it is independent and adequately resourced," the deputy Opposition leader said.

Mr. Basil said the Office of the Attorney-General, the Public Prosecutor, Ombudsman Commission, Transparency International (PNG) and other relevant organizations as well as the public must have their contributions to the draft before the PM brings it before Parliament to be passed.

"Due to corrupt practices among politicians, the draft must not be handled by the Office of the Prime Minister because the Bill can easily be passed on the floor of Parliament by the majority of the Government MPs," he said.

"There has to be transparency when dealing with the ICAC Bill because public perception would be that of a possible offender drafting the Bill to suit himself whenever he is caught.

"There could be technical loopholes in some clauses of the bill that needs scrutiny and comments by concerned agencies and the public."

He said influential leaders would not want their assets seized or investigated so there existed a conflict of interest situation as far as parliamentarians were concerned.

He said there would also be conflict of interest situations in the Office of the Prime Minister if the office continued to single-handedly bring the ICAC Bill to Parliament.

"The ICAC Bill must have retrospective investigative and prosecution powers going back to independence and must also be able to investigate former MPs and public servants, or if they are deceased, the ICAC law must have a good tracking system to recoup assets off family and relatives," he said.

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