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Peter O’Neill vs Belden Namah for K50 Million on 2012 National Election

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Monday the Ombudsman Commission (OC) has failed in its duty to investigate claims by Opposition Leader Belden Namah that he had spent K50 million (US$20 million) on Members of Parliament in the 2012 national election.

But the Ombudsman Commission hit back last night, describing O’Neill’s claim as a “lie”.

The prime minister had raised serious concerns that the Chief Ombudsman was not interested in investigating the K50 million disclosed last month by Namah, who is PNG Party leader.

O’Neill said Namah himself had made the multimillion kina claim and it raised serious concerns that should be properly scrutinised.

The Ombudsman Commission has responded, suggesting the matter should be considered by the Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Commission.

Later, Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua said the matter was classified and to suggest that the Ombudsman Commission was not interested in investigating the case was not true.

“I must strongly warn that matters which are before the Ombudsman Commission are highly classified in nature,” Lua said.

“Therefore I as Chief Ombudsman nor any member or officers of Ombudsman Commission are bound to disclose any information on the same.

“All that needs to be said about the K50 million Namah used in his election, especially where that money came from, is a subject currently before the Commission and any statement from outside OC to the effect that OC is not interested in investigating same is a lie.”

O’Neill, in earlier correspondence with the Chief Ombudsman, stated that the Ombudman’s failure to inquire into the Namah claim "casts light on the fundamental question of fairness and impartiality on the part of the Commission".

“This matter is the subject of great public interest, which warrants Ombudsman Commission investigation under the Leadership Code,” O’Neill said.

“The Ombudsman Commission should not simply ignore the public complaint, which has been lodged and refer it to another Authority for investigation.”

Speaking after more recent correspondence from the Chief Ombudsman, the prime minister said he remained concerned at the Ombudsman Commission’s lack of interest.

“The people of Papua New Guinea have legitimate questions that they would like answered. Where did Namah get this K50 million? He was not a successful businessman before he went into politics," O’Neill said.

“Has he declared this K50 million and paid tax on it?

“Adherence to transparency is a responsibility of all holders of public office and this admission of questionable activity by the Leader of the Opposition needs to be fully investigated without fear or favour.” [TNA]

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