PNG – PM : THE NATIONAL PACNEWS 2: Thurs 08 May 2008
Sir Michael fights Ombudsman Commission.
08 MAY 2008 PORT MORESBY (Pacnews) ----- Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is seeking to halt an investigation into allegations of misconduct in office against him by the Ombudsman Commission, reports The National . The investigations relate to Sir Michael’s alleged failure to lodge annual returns for the periods 1994/95, 1995/96, and 1996/97, his late lodgement of returns for the periods 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04, and incomplete statements for the periods 1992/93, 1993/94, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, and 2002/03.
Section 4 of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership require every person who is subject to the Leadership Code to give the Ombudsman Commission once every 12 months details of their total assets, income, business connexions, referred to as Annual Statements.
Failing to do so becomes an offence for which a leader can be referred to the Leadership Tribunal for prosecution for alleged misconduct in office.
Documents filed in count and obtained by The National show that extensive correspondences took place between Sir Michael’s lawyers Posman Kua Aisi and the Commission since the Commission first wrote to Sir Michael on Oct 18, 2006 setting out the allegations and giving him the right to be heard.
In that 11-page letter, the Commission highlighted the allegations dating back to 1992, a period of over 15-years during which Sir Michael held various positions including that of East Sepik governor, Cabinet Minister, Opposition leader, and Prime Minister.
A request for an extension of time for 21 days to provide his response was denied, and instead 14 days extension was granted.
The Prime Minister found this to be unfair, and asked on Dec 18 2006 for an independent team of investigators to look into the allegations. The Commission rejected this.
In various correspondences, the Prime Minister provided reasons why his annual statements were filed late, incomplete and not at all. He cited moving of residences a number of times, holding different offices over that period of time, and personal staff who might be involved in those returns moving on.
On Sept 14, 2007 after the Somare Government was returned to office, Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno wrote to the Prime Minister’s lawyers advising that the Commission had reached a decision on the allegations, and “as a matter of protocol and respect intended to convey its decision in person. Mr Geno proposed to the lawyers to set up an appropriate time to convey their decision.
Somare launched the court proceedings to stop this. His lawyers confirmed yesterday that they will appear in court tomorrow to seek an interim injunction to stop the investigations while full arguments are heard to permanently stop the investigations into these allegations.
Ombudsman Commission lawyers said they have been served and are aware of the Prime Minister’s court challenge, and will go to court to oppose the move to stop the investigations.Sir Michael said the Commission’s conduct was harsh and oppressive, and the long delays were excessive and in breach of their duty to act fairly………PNS (ENDS)