Government removes critical powers from proposed corruption watchdog

The government has amended draft legislation for an Independent Commission Against Corruption to remove some of its most critical powers and open the doors to political interference, says community advocacy group ACT NOW!

“The government is watering down the powers of the ICAC and will be creating exactly the kind of 'toothless monster' the Secretary for Justice spoke about in his letter published in the media on Monday”, says Campaign Coordinator, Eddie Tanago.

The government’s changes were announced at a UPNG Seminar last week, by the Minister for Justice, Davis Stevens. He said, the government has removed the ICACs powers of arrest and prosecution and placed the Prime Minister in charge of the appointments process for the Commissioners.

ACT NOW! has been leading a campaign for the ICAC to be established with the government’s first 100 days, and has collected more than 2,000 signatures on its petition, but says it is dismayed at the government’s changes.

“Denying the ICAC full powers of arrest and prosecution means it will not be able to act independently and effectively to investigate, prosecute and ensure those guilty of corruption are punished”, says Eddie Tanago. 

“Instead the ICAC investigators will be dependent on other agencies like the police and public prosecutor to ensure their findings are acted upon. This has been one of the weaknesses in the existing anti-corruption bodies as police and public prosecutor are already overwhelmed, under funded and subject to political interference”.

ACT NOW! says that over the past twenty years there have been numerous Commissions of Inquiry that have recommended dozens of people be prosecuted for misusing and stealing public funds, but time and again the police and public prosector have failed to follow up. The new ICAC should not be adopting this failed system.

“The government’s proposed ICAC will be as toothless as the Commissions of Inquiry it is supposed to improve on” says Eddie Tanago. 

“It is essential the ICAC is fully independent of other government agencies and full funded to investigate, charge and prosecute those accused of corruption.”

ACT NOW! is also critical of the government’s failure to publish a full copy of the draft legislation and its intention to put the Prime Minister in charge of the panel appointing the Commissioners.

“The government talks about transparency and an ‘independent’ commission, but it is hiding the draft legislation and wants to ensure political control”, says Eddie Tanago.

“The people of PNG deserve and demand better”.