The Ombudsman Commission of Papua New Guinea
The ombudsman concept mushroomed throughout the world in the 1960s and 70s. Its history is traced back to the appointment in Sweden in the early 1800s of special, independent officers whose job it was to investigate complaints about the exercise of powers by the government.
An ombudsman, by tradition, is therefore a person who investigates complaints about administration, with a minimum of fuss and formality. Emphasis is placed on searching for "the truth". An ombudsman determines whether a complaint is justified. And if it is, recommendations are made, aimed at correcting injustice.
The Ombudsman Commission of Papua New Guinea was envisaged as the institution that would provide a quick, flexible means of redress for aggrieved citizens suffering from administrative injustice. The Ombudsman Commission was seen as the institution that would assist ordinary people throughout the country who felt aggrieved by actions or inactions of the bureaucracy of any institution of government.
The Ombudsman Commission is an independent institution established directly by the Constitution. It forms an integral part of the system of checks and balances that have been out in place by the Constitution to regulate the governance of Papua New Guinea.
In general terms, the Commission has been established to: guard against the abuse of power by those in the public sector; assist those exercising public power to do their jobs efficiently and fairly and impose accountability on those who are exercising public power.
There are two special features of the Ombudsman Commission that set it apart from equivalent institutions in other countries. The Ombudsman Commission performs a range of different functions, which in other countries are dealt with by different institutions. The Commission's independence is guaranteed by the Constitution, in a number of different ways. In most other countries, ombudsman institutions do not have this special status.
Another innovative feature of the way the ombudsman concept was developed in PNG is the use of a Commission, rather than a single office-holder, to exercise the constitutional powers. In most other countries, the powers of an ombudsman rest ultimately with a single person.
The Ombudsman Commission's vision is to promote good leadership and good governance (Ombudsman Commission Strategic Plan 2001-2005).
The Ombudsman Commission aspires:
(a) to ensure that all governmental bodies are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the People; and
(b) to help in the improvement of the work of governmental bodies and the elimination of unfairness and discrimination by them; and
(c) to help in the elimination of unfair or otherwise defective legislation and practices affecting or administered by governmental bodies; and
(d) to supervise the enforcement of the Leadership Code.
This is the constitutional mandate and the mission of the Ombudsman Commission provided under Section 218 (purposes of the Commission) of the Constitution (Ombudsman Commission Strategic Plan 2001 - 2002).
The members of the Commission and officers in the Service of the Commission are motivated by the Constitution and the National Goals and Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution. These are the goals and objectives that the People of Papua New Guinea, through their elected representatives adopted at Independence on 16 September 1975.
The appointment of Members of the Ombudsman Commission
The Chief Ombudsman and the two Ombudsmen are appointed by the Governor-General, acting with, and in accordance with the advice of the Ombudsman Appointments Committee (Constitution, Section 217(2)). This Committee consists of:
· the Prime Minister as Chairman;
· the Chief Justice;
· the Leader of the Opposition;
· the Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Appointments; and
· the Chairman of the Public Services Commission.
Composition of the Commission
The Commission consists of a Chief Ombudsman and two Ombudsmen.
The current members of the Commission are Chief Ombudsman lla Geno, Ombudsman Raho Hitolo and Ombudsman Peter Masi.
Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek
Chronox Manek is the Boana area of the Morobe Province. He was formerly the Public Prosecutor as well as the Public Solicitor. He holds a Bachelors of Law from the University of Papua New Guinea, as well as a Masters in Law from the Melbourne University.
Ombudsman John Nero
Ombudsman John Nero comes from Kasena village, Asaro District, Eastern Highlands Province.
He completed his secondary education at the Asaroka Lutheran High School in 1982 and Aiyura National High School in 1984. He worked with the Accounting and Finance Division of the Rural Development Bank from 1985 to 1986. Between 1987 and 1990, Mr Nero pursued tertiary studies at the University of Papua New Guinea and graduated with Bachelors in Commerce (BAC). He joined the Finance and Planning Department as a Finance Inspector for four and half years conducting Audits and Special Investigations of governmental bodies under the Public Finances Management Act (1995).
In September 1995 he transferred to the Ombudsman Commission as a Senior Investigator with the Leadership Division and was promoted to Team Leader in November 1999 and Deputy Director (Leadership) in April 2002 until his acting appointment as Ombudsman in February 2005 and substantive appointment in May. Till then he had been in the employ of the Commission for 10 years and at various times was Acting Director of Operations.
As a qualified Accountant, Mr Nero brings to the panel of Ombudsman a wealth of specialist expertise and skills in inspections, auditing and investigation of the government expenditure and accounting system. His contributions and guidance of the Commission's Finance, Budgeting and Corporate functions generally is invaluable.
Ombudsman Nero holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia having graduated in 1999 as an active member of the Certified Practising Accountant, CPA (PNG).