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OMBUDSMAN COMMISSION CONCERN ABOUT ICAC BILL

The Ombudsman Commission is urging Members of Parliament to have a meaningful debate before voting for the OLICAC/ICAC Bill.

The Ombudsman Commission is greatly concerned that the ICAC Bill that is currently before the Parliament for its third and final reading raises serious questions and issues pertaining its functions and operations. The Chief Ombudsman Mr Richard Pagen in a prior submission on the examination of the OLICAC made to the Constitutional Law Acts and Subordinate Legislative Parliamentary Committee pointed out three major concerns regarding the OLICAC:

• Duplication of roles with existing constitutional organizations such as the Police, the Public Prosecutor and the Ombudsman Commission;

• Its disharmony with the Constitution; and

• It’s Independence.

According to Chief Ombudsman Pagen, “there is clear encroachment into the functions of the Police, the Public Prosecutor and the Ombudsman Commission under the ICAC Bill.”

The Ombudsman Commission in August 2020 wrote to all Members of Parliament to consider its initial recommendations on the purposes of the ICAC:

(1) To conduct independent investigations;

(2) To prosecute major (serious fraud) or high profile crimes; and

(3) To raise awareness and education and prevention.The Ombudsman Commission further urges Members of Parliament to seriously consider and distinguish the purposes of establishing institutions such as the Ombudsman Commission and the ICAC whether ICAC was thought out properly.

The purpose of the Ombudsman Commission is clearly defined by the Constitution whilst ICAC’s purposes are too general, broad and not specifically defined.

The Ombudsman Commission’s purpose is to ensure that all governmental bodies are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people, help improve the work of governmental bodies and the elimination of unfairness and discrimination by them, help in the elimination of unfair or otherwise defective legislative and practices affecting or administered by governmental bodies; and supervise the enforcement of the Leadership Code.

ICAC’s purpose on the other hand cannot be clearly defined as it is quite general, not specifically defined and encroaches into functions of other institutions.

The Independence of the ICAC is also a matter of concern for the Ombudsman Commission in that certain provisions of the OLICAC are not in harmony with the Constitution. Section 11 of the Constitution states that any law that is not in harmony with the Constitution should be deemed invalid hence the Commission’s concern.

November 12, 2020