Wednesday 14th June 2023

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape speaking during the recent FIPIC Meeting at the APEC Haus in Port Moresby in May 2023. DICT file pic.

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has proposed an amendment to the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership, aiming to impose stricter penalties including five-year dismissal from office on leaders who fail to submit their annual statements. The proposed amendment also includes substantial penalties for individuals who obstruct the Ombudsman Commission (OC) or intimidate and interfere with witnesses.

This is a landmark legislation which has never been done by past governments.

He presented the proposed amendment to Parliament on Thursday, June 8, 2023. In the initial vote, it received unanimous support from the MPs with a vote of 86-0. A second vote will take place after two months for the amendment to become law.

PM Marape explained when introducing the proposed amendment, “Section 4 looks at the Statement of Income of Leaders who are both elected and appointed.

“The Section requires all leaders to submit annual statements upon the anniversary of their appointments into public offices. Non-submission and non-compliance are a misconduct, where the OC investigates the leader and upon collection of all evidence, makes referral to the Office of the Public Prosecutor, who will then recommend to the Chief Justice to set up a Leadership Tribunal to hear the matter.

“It is recommended that instead of matters being referred to the Public Prosecutor, the OC be given the power to order fines for non-compliance amounting to K20,000. This recommendation will enable the Commission to use its resources effectively, whilst dealing with this offence through its internal administrative processes.

“It will also be a very-effective means to deterring non-compliance on leaders failing to make their annual declarations.”

The proposed amendment also encompasses the following provisions:

• Protection of information received by the OC under Section 22(1);

• Increased penalties for failure to attend and produce documents as required by the OC under Section 31. The current penalty of K500 or three months imprisonment is deemed insufficient by the public and will be increased to K5,000 and 12 months imprisonment;

• Increased penalties for individuals refusing to attend and provide evidence in OC inquiries. The current penalty of K500 or three months imprisonment is considered inadequate and will be raised to K5,000 and 12 months imprisonment;

• Increased penalties for contempt of the OC, including disruptive behaviour that hampers its work. The existing penalty of K500 and three months imprisonment will be escalated to K5,000 and 12 months imprisonment;

• Introduction of a new section, 33A, to address the offense of obstruction or non-cooperation with the OC in carrying out its functions. The penalty for this offense will be K5,000 or 12 months imprisonment; and

• Imposition of restrictions on former public office holders from holding other positions. The proposed amendment suggests extending the restrictions on former leaders holding directorship positions to include national or domestic companies, as well as foreign enterprises.

This acknowledges the broader range of potential conflicts of interest that leaders might face. Additionally, the exclusion period will be reduced from three years to one year, recognising that the risk of abuse of position diminishes over time.

The penalty will increase from K1,000 to K5,000, and the imprisonment term will rise from three months to 12 months.

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