THE Public Accounts Committee takes its powers from the Constitution of PNG.
Section 216 directs that the committee’s primary function is to “examine and report to Parliament on the public accounts of PNG and on the control of and on transaction with or concerning the public monies and property of PNG”.
This includes any accounts, finances and property that are subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor-General.
The PAC is also authorised by the Public Finances Management Act at section 86.
This section empowers the PAC to examine accounts and receipts of collection and expenditure of the public account and each statement in any report of the Auditor-General presented to Parliament.
Section 17 of the Permanent Parliamentary Committees Act confers upon the PAC further jurisdiction in that any matter that the committee deems to be of “national importance” may be inquired into.
The PAC is not a true investigatory body capable of investigating and/or prosecuting persons for breaches of the law.
However, all the relevant legislations referred to above confer upon the committee the right to refer persons to the Public Prosecutor or relevant government bodies for possible prosecution where it is satisfied that there is a prima facie case against the person.
With regards to the Lands inquiry, the PAC twice made referrals of the secretary for Lands and Physical Planning, Pepi Kimas, during the course of this inquiry, for investigation and prosecution for failure to comply with a notice and a summons to produce documents.
The committee received very serious allegations of misconduct, maladministration and corrupt dealing within and by officers of the Department of Lands and Physical Planning such that it resolved that the allegations comprised a matter of “national importance”.