By GIDEON KINDIWA
A LEADERSHIP tribunal dealing with fraud allegations against Maprik MP and Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon has been stayed until constitutional issues raised by Simon are addressed by the Supreme Court.
Simon was suspended on full pay following allegations of misconduct in office where more than K1.6 million in public funds had been allegedly misappropriated.
His hire car and construction companies were alleged to have benefitted and he also allegedly misapplied district services improvement programme funds to benefit a company belonging to him and another person.
The Ombudsman Commission had conducted investigations and filed a reference in which two members of the commission, Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick and Ombudsman Richard Pagen referred the matter to the public prosecutor to have Simon brought to court.
The recently appointed minister is facing a leadership tribunal. His lawyer Greg Sheppard from Young and Williams Lawyers had raised constitutional issues regarding the validity of the reference. He argued that the reference was supposed to be signed by all three ombudsmen and not two. He said this was unconstitutional and so the reference by the public prosecutor to prosecute Simon was also unconstitutional.
Public prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin had replied that the Ombudsman Commission had had only two members during the filing of the reference and one of them was acting on the vacant position which gave them powers to sign on behalf of all three members.
The tribunal consisting of Justice Nicholas Miviri and senior magistrates Michael Apie’e and Nancy Lipai ruled that the tribunal be stayed until the issue of quorum was dealt with by the Supreme Court.
The tribunal referred the constitutional questions to the Supreme Court for interpretation. The Supreme Court will determine whether or not the tribunal had jurisdiction to inquire, investigate and determine a leadership referral where the quorum required by law is three members of the ombudsman but only two signed the reference.
It will also interpret what the meaning of quorum was according to Section 217 (7) of the Constitution and Section 14 (3) of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission. It will find out whether Section 217 of the Constitution is conclusive or has any exceptions and by what authority.
The tribunal will remain adjourned until the questions referred are answered by the Supreme Court.
By GIDEON KINDIWA