Papua New Guinea ICAC Update 2021

Sooner or later, Legislators, Media, Civil Society groups will grow impatient with the time it takes to recruit the ICAC Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners and complete all necessary steps for ICAC to be open for business.

Not everyone will appreciate the time required to create new and important agency from scratch, we expect to hear citizens grumbling about delays in starting up ICAC given the fact that the country is deeply suffering the consequences of corruption which is described to be systemic and systematic and is said to have infiltrated all systems of both the Government and Non-Governmental organizations and to top it all they have lost confidence in the law enforcement agencies like the Police, Ombudsman Commission, Public Prosecutor and others and see ICAC as the only hope of addressing and minimizing corruption in the country.

Whilst I very much appreciate the views and the aspirations of the citizens, I wish to also appeal for your understanding and patience to appreciate the fact to establish an ICAC from ground zero is not an easy task in a country like ours with over 800 different tribes and traditions, the strong sense of regionalism, wantok system fueled by an ailing economy, with high employment rate, weak public service and dysfunctional vital services like Education, Health, Law & Order, etc. makes PNG a fertile environment for corruption to thrive unabated.

I knew every citizen would like our PNG ICAC to be corruption free, effective and efficient and able to stand the challenges ahead and this can only be achieved through an in-depth analysis and careful structural foundation and systems with employment of persons with high integrity to deliver a successful ICAC that can successfully combat corruption in PNG.

ICAC cannot effectively fight corruption single handedly and must not be seen in that context. ICAC needs the support of other law enforcement agencies to work together to effectively fight corruption together to gain maximum impact.

It will be suicidal to rush ICAC to come into operations prematurely. The OLICAC is a new untested law with no precedencies set by the courts compared to other laws. As we speak, the Ombudsman has challenged the Constitutionality of the OLICAC by way of Constitutional reference which is now before the Supreme Court for its deliberation and decision.

Therefore, we will engage Consultants to do a desktop review on all the other pieces of legislations that interplay with the OLICAC to ensure that it is not in conflict with other pieces of the relevant legislations and that it sits comfortably with them and enables the smooth operations with other laws.

Secondly, as I alluded to the above, ICAC cannot afford to fight corruption without the support of the other law enforcement agencies such as the Police, Ombudsman Commission, the Public Prosecutor, the Judiciary and others. Therefore, it is critically important that the other sister law enforcement agencies are corruption free, efficient and effective, otherwise our fight against corruption will not achieve its purpose. An immediate desktop review is required to identify gaps, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the other law enforcement agencies. If any deficiencies are detected, they must be immediately fixed before we take the first step to fight corruption together in the country. The fight against corruption must continue with other agencies like Police, OC and the Public Prosecutor whilst we continue to build ICAC.

Accomplishments:

  • The passage of the OLICAC
  • Approval of the ICAC Structure by the SCMC
  • Endorsement of the National Anti-Corruption Plan of Action by the NEC (will be launched soon)

Activities in Progress:

  • Regulation Writing
  • Code of Ethics
  • Duty Statements
  • Procedure Manuals
  • Corporate Plan
  • Case Management System
  • Recruitment Procedure Manual
  • Appointments Committee Guidance Manual
  • Oversight Committee Guidance Manual
  • Financial, HR & IT Systems, etc.

Our top priority now is the appointment of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners of ICAC.

ICAC cannot be operational until the appointment of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners.

The involvement of the new leadership as soon as possible in the many organizational and management decisions required to launch the new agency.

The Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners will be responsible for making the agency run smoothly. The greater their involvement in crafting its machinery, making decisions on staff organization, structure, priorities and procedures, the better.

Their involvement in working through these issues will give the new leadership a head start in managing the agency. It will give them a sense of ownership in the decisions taken.

The appointment of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners is immediate and critical.

No one thing will do more damage to the creation and operation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) than any doubt over its leadership legitimacy, credibility, apolitical posture and actions.

Our Technical team is working to create an effective and legitimate recruitment, selection and appointment of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners with absolute adherence to the Law (OLICAC).

It can be expected that the appointments will come under intense scrutiny from the Politicians, Public Sector, Media, Private Sector, Civil Society. The merest hint of any impropriety or failure to strictly adhere to the Law and the principles of fairness could face a prolonged legal challenge and cause lasting damage.

Under no circumstances should any attempt be made to circumvent the Laws will give an impression that the process is a forgone conclusion.

Our Technical Working Team is currently working on a designed comprehensive, transparent competency based system that will be made public and implemented as a matter of urgency. This will not be viewed as a normal Public Service appointment.

External Expert assistance will be required to facilitate a PNG multi-stakeholder designed team lead a Papua New Guinean with a reputation of unimpeachable integrity is considered a model.

Most handling of the applications will be done online in order to take human elements out of the process.

The findings, including a shortlist of extensively vetted candidates can then be presented to the appointments committee.

The findings will be given to the appointments committee in no particular order and ungraded and merely be certified that they meet the standards set by law and commonly held definitions of honesty, credibility and morality.

I anticipate that the ICAC should be up and running by 2023, if everything goes according to plan.

Apart from setting up ICAC, there are other important factors that needs to be addressed;

 

  • Office Building:
Accommodate the Commissioner/ Deputy Commissioners and approx. 82 Staff
  • ¬†Funding:
Sufficient funding to cater for salaries and remunerations and operational costs.
  • Resources:
Vehicles, computers, IT Systems, logistics.
  • Recruitment of ICAC Staff

 

2022 is almost written off due to the NGE and Covid-19 is another issue that will impede our progress.

ICAC could be our only hope to effectively deal with corruption in PNG and as such it is critically important to ensure that the setting up of its structures and organs must be right and more so the appointments of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners and off course the ICAC Staff must meet the standards set by Law and the commonly held definitions of honesty, credibility and morality.

At this juncture, I wish to appeal to our Politicians, Civil Society, Media and the Public for your understanding and support to assist me and our Technical Working Team to deliver a well-structured ICAC that can be able to effectively and efficiently combat corruption in PNG.

I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2022!

 

Thomas Eluh MBE, DPS, QPM
Interim Chairman
Independent Commission Against Corruption