​Ombudsman Commission’s appeal dismissed

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by the Ombudsman Commission against a National Court decision involving the Prime Minister on the borrowing of the K3 billion UBS loan.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia dismissed the appeal on Thursday. However, he said the Ombudsman Commission is at liberty to file a Supreme Court review of the National Court’s decision of Jan 28, 2015.

He said if a review is filed by the Ombudsman, it will be determined on its merits.

The Ombudsman’s appeal was dismissed after the court was told that the documents for the appeal could not be located in the registry, despite a Supreme Court reference number or court file number being given for the case on March 6, 2015.

On Jan 28, 2015, the National Court allowed Prime Minister Peter O’Neill certain orders restraining the Ombudsman Commission publishing a preliminary report of the alleged improper borrowing of a K3 billion loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland.

The National Court then also allowed the Prime Minister to obtain a reference under section 18(2) of the constitution for interpretation at the Supreme Court while the National Court proceeding was stayed, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court reference, a matter still before the high court.

This is all in relation to the alleged improper borrowing of K3 billion loan from the UBS AG by the government to purchase 149, 390, 244 shares in Oil Search Limited and improper tender and procurement of consultants in relation to the borrowing.

Justice Catherine Davani, in a 36-page ruling, issued an interim injunction on Jan 28 last year, restraining the Ombudsman Commission, Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua and Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari, from:

  • Investigating any conduct on the part of the Prime Minister under section 219(1)(a) of the constitution and section 13 of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission;
  • Publishing in any form the result of any investigation carried out by the Ombudsman Commission whether by forwarding a copy of its conclusion, recommendation and suggestions to the person holding the position described in section 23 (1) of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission;
  • Publishing any form the Provisional Report of December 2014 signed by Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua and Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari; and
  • Publishing in any form any amended Provisional report or final report.

Justice Davani also referred a total of 11 questions to the Supreme Court for further determination.


Sally Pokiton