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PNG ‘ICAC not ready’
10:39 pm GMT+12, 21/02/2021, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) does not have the capacity, office, foundation, resources, manpower and funding to start operating.
 
ICAC interim chairman Thomas Eluh said they currently did not have the systems in place, structure or even a foundation and that it would take “some more time” before they can start taking cases.
 
“Currently we don’t have any cases and we will not start taking any until we have set up an office and have the necessary manpower, resources and funding.”
 
Asked why the ICAC Bill was passed last year when it did not have the capacity, office, foundation, resources, manpower and funding to start operating, Eluh said: “We have to start somewhere and everything has to be done within the law.
 
“With the passing of the law, we can now do these things, like set up an office, recruit manpower, form a structure and start setting the foundation. ICAC may be the only chance we have at fighting corruption, so we have to do it right, even if it takes a while to take effect.”
 
Eluh said K4 million (US$1.9 million) had been allocated for the setting up of the commission.
 
He said they had initially requested for a budget of K20 million (US$9.8 million) as setting up and attending to cases would be expensive.
 
“We are now carrying out awareness on ICAC at the moment and will be visiting government departments, non-governmental organisations, corporate sector and the public,” Eluh said.
 
He said for the commission to work, it should not only be well-resourced but also include high-integrity staff.
 
“It should be independent from the executive government (appointments, operations, and decision-making, etc) and have a strong whistleblower protection programme (to boost public confidence),” Eluh said.
 
“It must have strong investigative powers, a strong accountability framework and collaboration.”
 
Recently, an argument developed between Prime Minister James Marape and former deputy prime minister and minister for justice and attorney-general, Davis Steven, after the latter revealed that the ICAC Bill faced “intense opposition” from within the government ranks when he was working on the bill.
 
Although receiving an overwhelming 96-0 from both sides of the house, Steven said the Attorney-General’s team and other sector agencies faced intense opposition when fighting to introduce the Whistle-blowers Act and the ICAC Bill last year.
 
Marape, however, said that it was Steven who had delayed the passage of the bill.
 
“Many prime ministers of the past just talked of ICAC, however, we delivered this into law,” he said.
 
The Prime Minister was contacted and he acknowledged receiving Post-Courier report but did not comment on the ICAC concern.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS


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