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Papua New Guinea Maprik MP John Simon, has been suspended on full pay following allegations of misconduct in office involving more than K1.6 million (US$417,000) in public funds.
Simon, recently appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, is currently defending himself before a Leadership Tribunal appointed by Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika. It began proceedings yesterday at the National Court in Waigani.
Public Prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin submitted nine allegations against Simon before tribunal chairman Justice Nicholas Miviri. The other members of the tribunal are senior magistrates Michael Apie’e and Nancy Lipai.
Simon is alleged to have used his office to benefit his own hire car company, benefit his own construction company, benefit a company belonging to him and another person.
He also allegedly misapplied the District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds.
The Ombudsman Commission carried out the investigation and made a reference to the Public Prosecutor on Aug 24, 2016, indicating that it was a prima facie case.
The allegations were made under Section 27 (5) (b) of the Constitution and Sections 13 (a) and 5 (1) of the Organic Law of Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership.
Simon is being represented by Greg Sheppard and Philip Tabuchi from Young and William’s Lawyers.
Sheppard argued that the reference by the Ombudsmen Commission was supposed to be signed by three Ombudsman.
It was signed by only two.
He also argued that the Ombudsman and the Public Prosecutor were late in pursuing the matter as the reasonable amount of time to file a reference and start a tribunal was four months. “The reference was filed in 2016. We’re in 2019 – a delay of three years,” Sheppard said.
“This is a matter that needs constitutional interpretation.”
Kaluwin said the Ombudsman Commission has had only two members during the filing of the reference.
Kaluwin argued that there was no unnecessary delay in pursuing the case as investigations took time and that facts must be established first.
He said the allegations arose during Simon’s first term as MP and since he was re-elected for a second term, he was again subjected to investigation on his previous term.
Justice Miviri adjourned the tribunal to Thursday for ruling on the preliminary issues raised.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
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