Ombudsman to inform court on next move

Court Lawyers from the Ombudsman Commission are expected to appear in the National this Friday, Dec 9 to inform the court on its position since the Supreme Court decision of Sept 2.

On Sept 2, a five-man Supreme Court bench found that the process involved in the referral of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for prosecution under the Leadership Code in relation to the K3 billion Union Bank of Switzerland loan was unconstitutional.

The case in the National Court was referred to the Supreme Court by Justice Collin Makail returned before him on Tuesday.

Justice Makail told the court the OC should immediately come back and advise the court on its position since the Supreme Court ruling in September.

He said he was not updated on the progress of the Supreme Court case since September.

Lawyer representing the Prime Minister in this case, Emmanuel Asigau told the court that since the September ruling; nothing has been done in terms of directions in the Supreme Court on the Ombudsman Commission’s part.

He added that the loan repayment has been completed and the State no longer has dealings with Oil Search.

A five-man Supreme Court bench on Sept 2 ruled that the public prosecutor was not entitled to request the Ombudsman Commission to collect more evidence to be submitted to him to assist in the exercise of his powers.

This was after the Prime Minister’s conduct came under investigation of the Ombudsman Commission in relation to the UBS loan.

The full court said it was not open to the public prosecutor to request the ombudsman commission to reinvestigate the allegations to gather more evidence.

Court said the public prosecutor was obliged to decline to prosecute if the material evidence was lacking to proceed further and he was to make that known to the ombudsman commission and the leader concerned.

This decision was made following three constitutional references each by the Attorney-General and Justice Minister Ano Pala, Justice David Cannings and Justice Collin Makail in relation to constitutional questions arising from the UBS loan, the Ombudsman Commission directions and Leadership Code proceeding against O’Neill.

On March 6, 2014, Cabinet approved the borrowing of K3billion to purchase 149.39 million shares in Oil Search.  The Ombudsman Commission on Mar 14, 2014, issued five instructions to freeze all transactions relating to the UBS loan arrangements.

The Prime Minister’s conduct came under investigation soon after by the Ombudsman Commission under the Leadership Code and on August 11, 2014, the chief ombudsman and an ombudsman signed an instrument, relating to three allegations against the prime minister without providing any reason for that decision.

One of the allegations was that the leader (prime minister) failed to comply with administrative and financial processes, including the normal overseas borrowing process during the approval of the K3 billion UBS loan.

The Ombudsman Commission referred the prime minister to the public prosecutor for alleged misconduct in office.

The public prosecutor on Oct 9, 2014, issued a statement, saying that he had considered the material referred to him by the Ombudsman Commission against the prime minister, and was of the view that there were certain vital evidence required for him to make an informed opinion on whether or not to refer the prime minister to the appropriate tribunal to conduct inquiries into the allegations of misconduct in office.

Sally Pokiton