ICAC Welcomes its Commissioners

The Papua New Guinea Independent Commission Against Corruption (PNG ICAC) welcomes its Commissioners after being sworn in at the Government House Port Moresby on the 4th of July 2023.

Welcoming the Commissioners, the PNG ICAC Interim Chairman Mr Thomas Eluh said their coming has been very much anticipated.

“The Commissioners’ swearing-in today is a milestone achievement for Papua New Guinea”, said Mr. Eluh.

The Commissioner Mr. Andrew Forbes comes from Australia, is a lawyer by profession, has worked for over 30 years in the legal field, and brings a wealth of experience in contentious disputes, and disciplinary and regulatory proceedings.

The Deputy Commissioner, Operations and Technical Services Mr. Daniel Baulch is also from Australia and was a former Police Officer with the Victoria Police.  He has worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years and brings a wealth of experience in the field of investigations.

The Deputy Commissioner Prevention and Corporate Administration Mr. Graham Gill is from New Zealand. Prior to his current appointment, he was the Deputy Chief Executive Corporate & Strategy with the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office.  He was also a former Police Officer with the New Zealand Police, and he brings with him 26 years of experience in prevention work and investigations.

Mr. Eluh announced that his role as the Interim Chairman has come to an end with the swearing-in of the three Commissioners.

The new PNG ICAC Commissioner Mr. Forbes thanked the outgoing Chairman Mr. Thomas Eluh and said Mr. Eluh has set the foundation on which they will continue to build to fully establish and operationalize the PNG ICAC.

“Our priority will be to foster cooperation across government departments, anti-corruption agencies, and the private sector, and we also welcome the support of the people to address corruption in Papua New Guinea”, Commissioner Forbes said.

Supporting the Commissioner’s statement, Deputy Commissioner Operations and Technical Services, Mr. Daniel Baulch stated that ICAC needs to form partnerships and collaboration both domestically and internationally.

“We are looking forward to working with those who share the passion of the PNG people in wanting to fight corruption. We have the mandate of our legislation, but we continue to seek unwavering support of the people and partner agencies to stop corruption” Mr Baulch said.

Deputy Commissioner Prevention and Corporate Administration, Mr Graham Gill in addition said corruption has huge economic impacts.  Internationally between 0.5 percent and 5 percent of government spending is lost to fraud and corruption.

“This means that government funds do not reach the most vulnerable and in need. It undermines the economy and creates an impediment to growth. This is why fighting corruption is an important task and one we are committed to,” said Mr. Gill.

 

PNG may be losing up to 4 Billion Kina in corruption

Papua New Guinea may be losing up to four (4) Billion Kina to corruption every year.

Papua New Guinea Independent Commission Against Corruption (PNG ICAC) Commissioner Mr. Andrew Forbes made this statement during the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council (DPMNEC) launch of the Anti-Fraud, Anti-Corruption, and Whistle-Blower Policy on the 17th of August 2023 in Port Moresby.

He said there are reports of government departments or agencies alleged to have failed to ensure that money or resources are being distributed for the benefit of communities in the country.

“If those reports are true, then this is concerning because communities directly suffer, said Mr. Forbes.

From a political and social perspective, this results in the erosion of public confidence in government.  From a legal perspective, it is potentially an abuse of authority and amounts to corrupt conduct.

He said this may impact the reputation of PNG which includes the risk of being “grey listed” by the Financial Action Task Force which in turn causes further harm to the PNG economy.

Mr. Forbes alluded that the definition of corruption under its governing law is quite broad which allows ICAC to not only consider the conduct of a public official or public body but can also examine the conduct of any person engaged by a public official or public body. ICAC can also investigate an issue even where no public official or public body is implicated.

The Commissioner emphasized that the operations of the PNG ICAC will be very different from that of other integrity agencies:

  • A major aspect of its operation will be the conducting of prevention programs – this is a critical aspect of the proactive steps that can be taken to promote change.
  • It can undertake investigations with the benefit of coercive powers.
  • At the conclusion of an investigation, the Commission may make findings about corruption allegations and make recommendations on a course of action others may take. (It may also bring a prosecution).
  • It will work with other agencies to ensure there is a conclusion to an investigation/issue (which could involve seeking an outcome by negotiation or without the need for formal steps (ICAC won’t set and forget).
  • ICAC will over time collect statistics that will assist in identifying areas of vulnerability and be used to enhance government policies and systems.

He said ICAC’s prevention function will be placing a significant focus upon bringing about change by working with the public and private sectors to implement processes that will reduce the temptation of corruption, or at least allow it to be revealed a little more easily.

“Prevention programs allow for proactive, rather than reactive steps to be taken and again sets ICAC apart from other integrity agencies”, he said.

Mr. Forbes further stressed that the Organic Law makes it clear that there must be cooperation and collaboration between the Commission and the departments and agencies to achieve what is an enormous task of reducing corruption.

He said the legislative framework that is the focus of today’s launch provides the basis for positive change, change that will better the people of PNG. It will take time, but we must start now.

“While ICAC is one instrument of that change, it cannot do it alone. All stakeholders must be determined and work together to prioritize reducing and preventing corruption. All must act in the public interest and without regard to personal interests”, Mr. Forbes said.

ICAC presents to the Gulf Provincial Coordination and Monitoring Committee in Kerema

The role of the ICAC is to investigate and prosecute corrupt conduct and to carry out anti-corruption awareness and prevention activities. Belinda Hughes, the Executive Director Legal Division of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), met with the Gulf Provincial Coordination and Monitoring Committee in Kerema on 20 March 2024.

Ms Hughes noted that “Corruption takes away money for services to the people. This means that money is in people’s pockets when it is supposed to be used for roads and hospitals”. She added that the Organic Law on the Independent Commission Against Corruption (OLICAC) applies to all public officials and public bodies as well as private individuals/entities who may have influence on the use of public money or otherwise.

Ms Hughes and the Committee members had a productive question and answer session, including questions about the ICAC’s coercive powers under the OLICAC. She advised that committee members could be required to produce documents, materials, or thing for purposes of investigations or enquiries even if they did not receive or misuse public money but have one way or the other facilitated the use of public money.

She further added that PNG ranks poorly on the global scale with a ranking of 29 out of 100, a ranking which is just above the countries currently at war.

“This shows that we have a lot to do to improve PNG’s ranking. And it cannot be done by ICAC alone. We need everyone to work together to lower the level of corruption in the country”, said Ms Hughes.

While in Kerema, the ICAC also visited a local school and delivered mugs and sports equipment to the teachers and students.

ICAC Executive Director Legal, Belinda Hughes speaking at a room full of participants at the first Gulf Provincial Coordination and Monitoring Meeting after three years of nonoperation. The Committee is an extended arm of the of the Provincial and Local Level Government Services Monitoring Authority, purposely for monitoring national and provincial development priorities.

The Australia-Papua New Guinea Law and Justice Partnership 2024

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) attended the launch of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Law and Justice Partnership on Thursday 11 April 2024 at the Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby.

The ICAC Commissioner Andrew Forbes attended the launch alongside other heads of departments in the PNG Law and Justice sector. The ICAC has been involved in extensive consultation to develop this program, alongside other PNG law and justice agencies.

Back row (left to right): Penny Morton, Dr Mange Matui, Leslie Mamu, E’ava Geita, Steven Pokanis and Helen Roalakona.

Front row: Jack Kariko, Dr Eric Kwa, Joanne Loundes (Australian Deputy High Commissioner), Mark Pupaka, David Manning and ICAC Commissioner Andrew Forbes.

This Program will provide K250 million over four years to PNG to support and strengthen the justice system, professional development and to improve community engagement. The key focus of this partnership will be to empower key agencies to promote law and justice.

The objective of this partnership include:

  • Improved delivery of law and justice services
  • Improved access to justice and just results
  • Improved crime prevention and community safety
  • Improved Criminal Justice Outcomes and integrate the informal system
  • Improved accountability and reduced corruption and
  • Improved support for national security initiatives.

The Partnership program is aligned to PNG priorities through the country’s fourth Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP IV) and other strategic partnership activities between Australia and PNG.

The ICAC Cannot be Intimidated from Carrying out its Function

The ICAC has strongly emphasised that it cannot be intimidated from carrying out its mandated function to investigate the conduct of public officials and public bodies including private individuals/entities who may have received or have influenced the use of public money.

Deputy Commissioner Daniel Baulch expressed this in a media conference on Monday 22 April 2024 at the ICAC office in Port Moresby. DC Baulch, noted that the ICAC has become aware that there are some who think they can attempt to intimidate the ICAC. “Let us be clear…you cannot and will not intimidate us from fulfilling our sworn commitment to the people and government of PNG”.  

He said in recent months the ICAC has quietly commenced investigations and started gathering evidence of corruption, adding that the Commissioners are not shocked about what they have seen so far, but disappointed in the willingness of some to steal from their fellow citizens, and to seek enormous wealth while others struggle. The Deputy Commissioner said he could not go into details of investigations at this time, to ensure ICAC investigations are not compromised as well as to ensure that persons of interest are given a fair and unbiased hearing before the court. However, he said the ICAC has received more than 100 complaints, most of which are bribery cases. “People are expecting additional payment just for doing their role” Baulch said.

Deputy Commissioner Baulch further added that the ICAC is recruiting more people for the fight against corruption. The people of PNG have had enough of corruption and corrupt people stealing their future. He said, “Millions of Kina is lost each year, money that could be used to provide schools, roads, and healthcare”.

He warned those who are involved in corrupt conduct or committing fraud, bribery, or are in any way misusing public money that, “corruption always leaves a trail that cannot be completely erased. The ICAC will use every means available to expose those involved in defrauding the state and the people of millions of Kina”,  

Media Conference at the ICAC Office Port Moresby

Deputy Commissioner Baulch appealed to those who have been engaging in corrupt conduct to report to ICAC before their associates report them to ICAC. “Be first in the door, not last if you’re corrupt,” he said.

 He said the ICAC Commissioners have committed themselves to come to PNG to help the people of PNG fight the scourge of corruption, adding that “the fight against corruption is not for ICAC alone. It is everyone’s fight”.