ICAC Welcomes its Commissioners
The Papua New Guinea Independent Commission Against Corruption (PNG ICAC) welcomes its Commissioners after being sworn in at the Government House Port Moresby on the 4th of July 2023.
Welcoming the Commissioners, the PNG ICAC Interim Chairman Mr Thomas Eluh said their coming has been very much anticipated.
“The Commissioners’ swearing-in today is a milestone achievement for Papua New Guinea”, said Mr. Eluh.
The Commissioner Mr. Andrew Forbes comes from Australia, is a lawyer by profession, has worked for over 30 years in the legal field, and brings a wealth of experience in contentious disputes, and disciplinary and regulatory proceedings.
The Deputy Commissioner, Operations and Technical Services Mr. Daniel Baulch is also from Australia and was a former Police Officer with the Victoria Police. He has worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years and brings a wealth of experience in the field of investigations.
The Deputy Commissioner Prevention and Corporate Administration Mr. Graham Gill is from New Zealand. Prior to his current appointment, he was the Deputy Chief Executive Corporate & Strategy with the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office. He was also a former Police Officer with the New Zealand Police, and he brings with him 26 years of experience in prevention work and investigations.
Mr. Eluh announced that his role as the Interim Chairman has come to an end with the swearing-in of the three Commissioners.
The new PNG ICAC Commissioner Mr. Forbes thanked the outgoing Chairman Mr. Thomas Eluh and said Mr. Eluh has set the foundation on which they will continue to build to fully establish and operationalize the PNG ICAC.
“Our priority will be to foster cooperation across government departments, anti-corruption agencies, and the private sector, and we also welcome the support of the people to address corruption in Papua New Guinea”, Commissioner Forbes said.
Supporting the Commissioner’s statement, Deputy Commissioner Operations and Technical Services, Mr. Daniel Baulch stated that ICAC needs to form partnerships and collaboration both domestically and internationally.
“We are looking forward to working with those who share the passion of the PNG people in wanting to fight corruption. We have the mandate of our legislation, but we continue to seek unwavering support of the people and partner agencies to stop corruption” Mr Baulch said.
Deputy Commissioner Prevention and Corporate Administration, Mr Graham Gill in addition said corruption has huge economic impacts. Internationally between 0.5 percent and 5 percent of government spending is lost to fraud and corruption.
“This means that government funds do not reach the most vulnerable and in need. It undermines the economy and creates an impediment to growth. This is why fighting corruption is an important task and one we are committed to,” said Mr. Gill.
PNG may be losing up to 4 Billion Kina in corruption
Papua New Guinea may be losing up to four (4) Billion Kina to corruption every year.
Papua New Guinea Independent Commission Against Corruption (PNG ICAC) Commissioner Mr. Andrew Forbes made this statement during the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council (DPMNEC) launch of the Anti-Fraud, Anti-Corruption, and Whistle-Blower Policy on the 17th of August 2023 in Port Moresby.
He said there are reports of government departments or agencies alleged to have failed to ensure that money or resources are being distributed for the benefit of communities in the country.
“If those reports are true, then this is concerning because communities directly suffer, said Mr. Forbes.
From a political and social perspective, this results in the erosion of public confidence in government. From a legal perspective, it is potentially an abuse of authority and amounts to corrupt conduct.
He said this may impact the reputation of PNG which includes the risk of being “grey listed” by the Financial Action Task Force which in turn causes further harm to the PNG economy.
Mr. Forbes alluded that the definition of corruption under its governing law is quite broad which allows ICAC to not only consider the conduct of a public official or public body but can also examine the conduct of any person engaged by a public official or public body. ICAC can also investigate an issue even where no public official or public body is implicated.
The Commissioner emphasized that the operations of the PNG ICAC will be very different from that of other integrity agencies:
- A major aspect of its operation will be the conducting of prevention programs – this is a critical aspect of the proactive steps that can be taken to promote change.
- It can undertake investigations with the benefit of coercive powers.
- At the conclusion of an investigation, the Commission may make findings about corruption allegations and make recommendations on a course of action others may take. (It may also bring a prosecution).
- It will work with other agencies to ensure there is a conclusion to an investigation/issue (which could involve seeking an outcome by negotiation or without the need for formal steps (ICAC won’t set and forget).
- ICAC will over time collect statistics that will assist in identifying areas of vulnerability and be used to enhance government policies and systems.
He said ICAC’s prevention function will be placing a significant focus upon bringing about change by working with the public and private sectors to implement processes that will reduce the temptation of corruption, or at least allow it to be revealed a little more easily.
“Prevention programs allow for proactive, rather than reactive steps to be taken and again sets ICAC apart from other integrity agencies”, he said.
Mr. Forbes further stressed that the Organic Law makes it clear that there must be cooperation and collaboration between the Commission and the departments and agencies to achieve what is an enormous task of reducing corruption.
He said the legislative framework that is the focus of today’s launch provides the basis for positive change, change that will better the people of PNG. It will take time, but we must start now.
“While ICAC is one instrument of that change, it cannot do it alone. All stakeholders must be determined and work together to prioritize reducing and preventing corruption. All must act in the public interest and without regard to personal interests”, Mr. Forbes said.