By Todagia Kelola in Port Moresby
A Leadership Tribunal has been appointed in Papua New Guinea to enquire into allegations of misconduct against the Member for Madang Bryan Kramer, a cabinet minister in the previous Marape government.
Kramer, a former police and justice minister and Minister of Immigration and Citizenship in the outgoing cabinet, has also been a social media strategist and publisher of the Kramer Report.
The Tribunal will be headed by a senior judge, Justice Lawrence Kangwia, and magistrates, Ms Nidue, Principal Magistrate and Senior Provincial Magistrate for Eastern Highlands, and District Court Magistrate Edward Komia.
Acting Chief Justice Ambeng Kandakasi announced the composition of the Tribunal yesterday.
Kramer welcomed the opportunity for the misconduct allegations to be heard and determined by the Tribunal.
“Today I was contacted by the Secretariat of the Leadership Tribunal and served the instrument signed by Acting Chief Justice appointing a Leadership Tribunal to enquire into and determine the 14 allegations of misconduct in office filed against me by the Ombudsman Commission,” he said in a statement.
“I was also served a statement of allegations of misconduct in office prepared by the Public Prosecutor.
However, it was served without the statement of reasons by the Ombudsman Commission that was supposed to be attached, Kramer said.
“I’ve taken note of the allegations and find them ridiculous and nonsensical. I look forward to the opportunity to prove the same before the Tribunal.
“The 14 allegations fail to raise any actual elements of dishonesty, material misconduct or personal benefit and appear to be mere administrative issues and or absurd allegations.
“Three allegations relate to social media publications purportedly scandalising the judiciary — namely the conduct of Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika — in suggesting a conflict of interest.
“It is further alleged that I published a letter of criminal complaint which was authored by the Chief Justice and addressed to the Commissioner of Police. This letter of complaint alleged that my publication on an interlocutory ruling was ‘inciting trouble and tending to cause trouble or ill feeling among people’.
“The letter went on to request that police investigate the matter and lay appropriate charges against me under Section 11 of the Summary Offences Act.
“Other allegations against me relate to decisions made by the Madang District Development Authority to establish its own company, Madang District Works & Equipment Ltd and Madang Ward Project Limited, to implement the DDA’s own development programs, by funding the wards to construct their own classrooms, aid posts as well as repair of town roads that had failed to be maintained by successive Provincial Administrations.
‘Ethical and transparent’
“The DDA approved completing the work at cost that was not possible with private contractors, is ethical and transparent with no kickbacks paid to government or members and represents value for money for Madang Open constituents.
“It is further alleged that I misappropriated K30.6 million [NZ$14 million] of Madang DSIP funds to a company owned by a member of Madang DDA (Madang District Works & Equipment Ltd). This allegation is wholly ridiculous.
“The company is fully owned by Madang DDA, and a nominated representative of the Madang DDA is listed as the sole director on behalf of the DDA. This is common and correct practice, and complies with Section 7.2 of the DDA Act as well as advice provided by the former Chief Ombudsman back in 2018.
“As for K30.6 million — this is a ridiculous claim and entirely fictitious. K30.6 million was in fact an entire 2020 DDA budget appropriation, which was submitted to the Department of Treasury and approved. It was certainly not spent or paid to a District Works company.
“A simple review of the relevant acts and documents would have shown the Ombudsman and Public Prosecutor that there is no case to answer. I am surprised, and somewhat shocked, that they failed to do their homework before making these allegations.
“Surely it is their job to ascertain the facts supported by credible evidence before pursuing a vexatious allegations.
“Unsubstantiated and vexatious actions like this only serve to further undermine the public’s trust in these important Constitutional offices.
‘Breached constitutional obligations’
“In the Ombudsman Commission’s haste to have me prosecuted over these allegations, it breached its own constitutional obligations by failing to provide me the right to be heard insofar as providing me documents [that] I requested to ascertain the truth of their allegations.
“The Supreme Court, in the case Pruaitch vs Manek in 2019, ruled that ‘any relevant documents are to be furnished to the leader if requested to enable the leader to fully respond to the allegations’.
“On 14 December 2022, I wrote to the Chief Ombudsman requesting the commission provide an extension of time to respond to the allegations and provide the evidence they relied on in forming their opinion that I was guilty of fourteen allegations of misconduct. As reported previously, the Ombudsman refused my request stating that ‘in practice we do not generally release information because all our investigations are confidential’.
“This is clearly in breach of Section 59 of the Constitution, the right to natural justice, and is clearly contrary to the Supreme Court’s own ruling on the issue.
“I now plan to challenge the Ombudsman Commission and hold it accountable to the law it claims to uphold. I look forward to my opportunity to put these vexatious allegations to rest and the opportunity to subpoena and cross examine all relevant persons behind these allegations before the Tribunal.”
Todagia Kelola is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.