PNG government criticised for watering down ICAC draft

4:10 pm on 20 September 2017

Papua New Guinea's government has been accused of watering down the powers of a draft Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC.

After his recent re-election, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill appeared to finally be advancing his long-running promise to introduce ICAC legislation.

However his government's amended draft legislation removed the powers of arrest and prosecution in earlier ICAC drafts.

It also placed the Prime Minister in charge of appointing the Commissioners.

These changes were announced by the Minister for Justice, Davis Stevens.

The anti-corruption NGO, Act Now, said they rendered the ICAC 'toothless' and open to political interference.

PNG PM Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill's government has come under fire for its ICAC moves Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

Act Now said denying ICAC full powers of arrest and prosecution meant it would not be able to act independently and effectively to investigate and prosecute those guilty of corruption.

It also criticised government for not publishing a full copy of the draft legislation.

Act Now said that under the changes signalled by Mr Stevens, ICAC investigators would be dependent on other agencies like the police and public prosecutor to ensure their findings were acted upon.

"This has been one of the weaknesses in the existing anti-corruption bodies as police and public prosecutor are already overwhelmed, under funded and subject to political interference," said the NGO.

"The government's proposed ICAC will be as toothless as the Commissions of Inquiry it is supposed to improve on!

"It is essential the ICAC is fully independent of other government agencies and full funded to investigate, charge and prosecute those accused of corruption."