Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Hon. James Marape announced that a new Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department will be appointed by December 2020. Mr. Marape said this in response to claims that a new secretary, an expatriate, would be appointed. Prime Minister also stated that the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea had passed amendments to the Prime Minister and National Executive Council Act and the Public Services Management Act. These amendments were to clarify the role of the Central Agencies Coordination Committee and to re-scope the position of secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and NEC. «Given the need for continuity of leadership, I have decided that the current acting chief secretary Isaac Lupari continues in that position until January 2021, » Mr. Marape said and also added that Mr. Lupari was playing a critical role in progressing complex negotiations on key resources projects including the Porgera gold mine and was leading work on the economic advisory group which was providing advice to the Ministerial Economic Committee on how to address the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s expected that the amendment to abolish chief secretary’s position would be effective as of January 2021. [1]

Meanwhile, the PNG Leadership Tribunal inquiring into allegations of misconduct in office against Aitape-Lumi (West Sepik) MP and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Patrick Pruaitch:
– Between September 2002 and October 2003, the leader used a State-owned vehicle, as his support vehicle, but received a benefit of about PGK12,463.83 (US$3530,11), for, or in connection with operational costs allowance that he was not entitled to;
– Between September 2002 and October 2003, unlawfully benefitted himself from PGK4781.44 (US$1354,24) in operational costs;
– Between September 2002 and October 2003, allowed his associates to receive PGK9836.45 from National Forest Authority as reimbursements for fuel purchased and used for privately-owned vehicles;
– Between the 11th of October 2002 and the 22nd of May 2003, the leader intentionally applied to his own use monies forming part of a fund that belong to the state, in a form of reimbursements monies totaling PGK7,891 (US$2234,95), paid by the national forest authority;
– misapplication of 2003 district support grants;
– late submissions of annual statements between 30th of July 2003, and 39th of July 2005.

The leadership tribunal also called for the first witness to give evidence against Mr. Pruaitch – Richard Pagen, Acting Chief Ombudsman Commissioner. [2]

The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea is also considering the case of the Pandemic Law, which was recently passed by PNG Parliament in response to COVID-19. The Supreme Court application was filed by Opposition Leader Belden Namah questioning its emergency powers under the constitution. Mr. Namah through the application is requesting the court to declare the National Pandemic Act unconstitutional and invalid for the following reasons: Part VII of the Act (Finance and Procurement) offends against the principle of parliamentary control over raising and expending of public money; and, section 52 of the Act purports to exclude the operation of the National Procurement Act 2018 and the Public Finance Management Act 1995 during «a declared period» unlawfully abrogating the powers and functions of supervision and control of the auditor-general and the Public Accounts Committee and vest them in the Pandemic Controller. [3]

Mr. Belden Namah also raised the question why a payment of PGK3 million (US$850 thousand) was made to consultancy company PC & M Ltd in 2013 by the Treasury Department at the instruction and direction of the then-Finance Minister, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape. According to Mr. Namah, in this period PC and M Ltd’s managing director was Rainbo Paita, who is now the Finance Minister. Opposition Leader marked that he had also initiated the process to refer the matter to the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate for inFvestigation. PNG Prime Minister welcomed Mr. Namah’s intention to lay a complaint with the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate to investigate and said that the Finance Department was a public office and he (Namah) or anyone for that matter who had issues were welcome to present to police so that an investigation could be done to establish what law was broken. [4-5]

However, Oro Province Governor (Northern Province) Gary Juffa wants the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations to conduct inspections and audits of illegal foreigners working in the country. Speaking during grievance debate in Parliament on Friday, Mr. Juffa said under Section 61 of the Foreign Employment Act, the fine for companies that employed foreigners illegally was PGK20,000 (US$5664,56). Mr. Juffa also noted that recently there was a series of inspections and audits carried out in logging companies in Northern which revealed 44 foreigners were working there unlawfully. « If we were to impose those fines, we would collect PGK1.32 million (US$370 thousand) under the Labour laws […] We would also collect further fines in relation to the fact that none of these workers fulfil the criterial for working in PNG […] One of the most important criteria being proficiency in English language, » Mr. Juffa said and added that there were similar incidents throughout the country. «They are supposed to be declared persona non-grata and they should be deported […] Those persons should be immediately blacklisted from PNG, » Oro Province Governor marked. [6]

Each district is to get PGK100,000 (US$28 thousand) for Independence 45th Anniversary celebrations next week, on the 16th of September, Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey says. Every year independence celebrations were marked with various activities in each districts of the country, but this year due to the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, celebrations may not be as expected. [7]

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