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Leaked report questions credibility of Sandwell Council corruption inquiry

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Mahboob Hussain, inset, was found to have breached conduct rules by the Wragge inquiry, the credibility of which has now been questioned
Mahboob Hussain, inset, was found to have breached conduct rules by the Wragge inquiry, the credibility of which has now been questioned

The controversial Wragge Report into misconduct at the council has dogged the authority for more than five years. An internal review was carried out into the inquiry last year but was kept under wraps until being leaked this week.

The review, led by council officers, concludes there are “deep concerns” still about the “conduct and circumstances” behind the two-year Wragge probe into misconduct by councillors and interference in property deals at the authority.

Citing examples of apparent “bias”, breaches in procedures and claims of “racially motivated language” used by an investigator, the review authors say that what they found “undermines the credibility and objectivity of the Wragge Report that was eventually published.”

The Wragge Report, published five years ago, uncovered how Sandwell’s then-deputy leader, Mahboob Hussain, breached conduct rules over his involvement in a sale of council land and disused public toilets to a friend for £35,000 – after being valued at £130,000.

He was also alleged to have used his power and influence as a senior councillor to have relatives’ parking tickets cancelled.

Mahboob Hussain was ejected from the Labour Party on the eve of this year’s conference

According to later High Court papers, the incidents happened in a period where the council was one where members were “the bosses” and the council was “open for business”.

A subsequent standards committee hearing headed by QC James Goudie ruled Mr Hussain had been involved in a “substantial course of misconduct” over several years and breached the code of conduct 12 times. He was formally reprimanded for bringing the council into disrepute, ordered to attend training, barred from contacting council officers direct and blocked from holding senior roles for four years.

The disgraced ex-councillor has now welcomed the review and urged the council to publish it.

Mr Hussain, 61, called it “a breakthrough” in his battle to clear his name. He said the Wragge findings and misconduct hearing that followed have had a lasting impact on his life.

“I am not the same person I was five years ago. This destroyed my confidence and my good name. This was a political witch hunt.

“The police have made it clear I was never arrested.”

West Midlands Police launched an investigation into the incidents raised but later dropped their inquiries and closed the case.

The new review is not the first to examine in detail the investigation behind the Wragge Report and to look at claims of bias and what were referred to by one judge as “racist overtones” by its lead investigator Mark Greenburgh.

In 2017, Mr Hussain attempted to prevent further investigation of the allegations against him on the grounds of bias and political motivation, citing particularly a comment made by Mr Greenburgh to a senior officer about disability in the Hussain family being linked to “inbreeding”.

But Judge Mr Justice Green, sitting in the High Court, while referring to the comment as “troubling”, ruled against the application for a judicial review on the grounds of bias.

In a 60-page judgement, he rejected claims that the overall investigation was “biased”. He ruled there was a “serious case to answer” against Mr Hussain and gave the green light to an independent standards inquiry.

The main findings of the review have now been shared with the Wragge Report’s lead investigator, Mark Greenburgh.

He expressed “surprise and disappointment” that the council was devoting resources to going back over the evidence that led to the Wragge Report, when it had already been heavily reviewed and scrutinised by legal experts.

He said he was neither invited to contribute to the review, nor had seen its outcome, but pointed out that a lengthy High Court hearing, a QC-led independent analysis of his investigation and findings, and a further probe by the Solicitors Regulation Authority had all already taken place.

Mark Greenburgh led the Wragge investigation but his conduct has now been questioned

“I am satisfied that the conclusions reached in the Sandwell investigation were broadly accurate, as affirmed by Mr Goudie QC and (judge) Mr Justice Green (in his deliberations over whether there should be a judicial review). I note that the Judge held that my report contained “allegations that are serious and that there is a pressing public interest in those allegations being thoroughly and fairly tested and adjudicated upon”.

“It is both surprising and disappointing that even after so many years, the council appears to continue to focus its resources on examining the investigatory process, rather than the underlying issues it uncovered.”

The review, led by the council’s regulatory services boss Neil Cox supported by a retired police detective and two senior trading standards officers, was triggered by new complaints in 2019 and 2020 from Mr Hussain, fellow councillor Ian Jones and a council whistleblower over the way the Wragge investigation was run.

The complainants were interviewed but other key figures – including the lead investigator Mr Greenburgh and then-chief executive Jan Britton – were not.

The officers carried out desktop research into original witness interviews and transcripts as part of the review.

What they found, they say, “established a number of deep concerns particularly in respect of Mr Greenburgh’s conduct throughout the investigation due to his perceived prejudice, determination to prove the guilt of Mr Hussain in particular and a string of racially motivated comments he made to witnesses and officers.”

The review also alleges that a revisit of witness interviews and transcripts “has identified serious concerns about Mr Greenburgh’s professional training and approach to the investigation”.

Jan Britton was chief executive of the council during the inquiry

The lead investigator was accused of “asking questions and then answering them himself”, as well as “the potential leading of witnesses by sharing with them his personal opinions of other witnesses and individuals linked to the investigation.”

He was also criticised for alleged “disclosure to witnesses of the private and personal information of individuals linked to the investigation.”

The resulting transcripts of interviews were also ‘equally poor’, the review found, while there was said to be “a fundamental misrepresentation of the evidence within the report.”

The review concludes: “This review has not sought to reinvestigate the allegations made against the members who were the focus of the Wragge Report, it has been focused on examining how the investigation was conducted and understanding the circumstances surrounding the production of the report.”

During their review of witness statements, the review team spotlighted an instant when Mr Greenburgh allegedly likened Mr Hussain’s situation to notorious gangster Al Capone.

The review reads: “Further troubling comments indicating potential prejudice were made…during (an) interview, during which he likens Mr Hussain’s situation to that of the notorious gangster Al Capone…to make such an elaborate comment is both inappropriate and unprofessional and suggests a level of prejudice and that Mr Greenburgh was revelling in the belief that he had demonstrated inappropriate conduct on the part of Mr. Hussain.”

Several comments by Mr Greenburgh to witnesses are also described by the review as “racially motivated”.

They include a suggestion, allegedly said in one interview, that all men with a Muslim name he had been made aware of as part of his enquiry were relatives of Mr Hussain and a comment he made to one witness was interpreted to mean he was suggesting a Muslim couple may deliberately have had more children to increase the likelihood of a housing upgrade.

In 2019, an independent probe by the Solicitor Regulation Authority into a complaint of racism against Mr Greenburgh was not upheld. However, he received a written rebuke for one comment that was deemed inappropriate, in which he suggested that the disabilities of Mr Hussain’s daughter and her children were caused by ‘inbreeding’.

Sandwell Council has had six different leaders in five years and is looking for its fourth chief executive in three years

In a statement Mr Greenburgh said: “Neither I, nor this firm (Greenburgh and Co), have ever been contacted by Mr Cox or anyone else connected to whatever review he is said to have undertaken.

“He has certainly not put any criticisms to me, or invited any response to his conclusions.

“I can confirm that I led a team of lawyers who undertook an investigation into allegations of impropriety at Sandwell Council.

“My understanding is that external lawyers were invited to undertake that report as there were serious concerns that an internal investigation may not be independent.

“My report and the background papers, including the interview notes, drafts of the report and working papers were all available to the council. They were scrutinised by an eminent QC, James Goudie. His Opinion was published alongside my report.

“Mr Hussain launched a judicial review application against the council relating to the report and its findings.

“Whilst I was not invited to give evidence to that court case, all of the evidence was available to the court and to Mr Hussain’s experienced solicitors and QC.

“Following an intensive and detailed consideration of the evidence, including a forensic scrutiny of both the process of my investigation and its conclusions, Mr Justice Green dismissed all the allegations made by Mr Hussain. The Judge set out my professional qualifications and background in his judgement.

“Mr Hussain also made allegations of racism, bias and discrimination against me to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Following an investigation and hearing process lasting nearly two years, the SRA did not accept any allegations of racism or discrimination against me.

“Again, all of the papers that were available to the court were available to Mr Hussain’s lawyers and the SRA in that process.

“Without seeing the totality of it (the review) and the basis on which the comments are made, I am not able to comment.

“The essence of any investigation is to gather evidence and test it; to give each person the opportunity to understand the allegations and evidence relevant to them, and to respond to it; and to reach independent and justified conclusions on the evidence.

“I am satisfied that the conclusions reached in the Sandwell investigation were broadly accurate, as affirmed by Mr Goudie QC and Mr Justice Green. I note that the Judge held that my report contained “allegations are serious and that there is a pressing public interest in those allegations being thoroughly and fairly tested and adjudicated upon”.

“It is both surprising and disappointing that even after so many years, the council appears to continue to focus its resources on examining the investigatory process, rather than the underlying issues it uncovered.

“If Mr Cox, or anyone else, has specific and evidenced allegations to put to me, I will consider them and respond, if appropriate.”

The review also details concerns that the final Wragge Report was “influenced” by former chief executive Jan Britton and Labour Party officials.

It states: “The former Chief Executive shared his personal opinions on the matters that had been investigated and that he had a significant input into the content and presentation of the final report, actions which would lead a ‘fair minded observer’, to question the independence of the investigation.”

There was also evidence that the former Chief Executive exchanged emails with Mr Greenburgh using a personal email address, contravening council rules, according to the review.

The review also references potential input from the Labour Party into the Wragge Report.

“As well as this exchange of emails, evidence has also come to light which suggests the Regional Secretary of the Labour Party at the time was provided with a private and confidential letter from Mr Greenburgh to the former Chief Executive, outlining the investigations findings, prior to the completion of the report, and was in dialogue with both the former Chief Executive and the then Council Leader, Darren Cooper, about its contents,” the review adds.

The review also details how officers involved in selecting law firm WLG to carry out the Wragge inquiry failed to follow procurement and contract rules; incurred costs of £43,000 without approvals in place; repeatedly failed to use the corporate procurement system when paying WLG invoices – which amounts to a breach of its own rules and financial regulations; and that there was no management of the spiralling costs of the investigation. It rocketed from an estimate of £100,000 to more than £180,000, according to he review.

This is now under “concurrent investigation,” the review says.

Both Mr Greenburgh and Mr Britton said they have not been interviewed or asked to contribute to the review, nor offered a chance to defend themselves by the council.

Mr Britton, who served as the council’s CEO for 13 years until he resigned in May 2019, said: “I haven’t seen the documents you refer to so I am unable to comment on them.

“The investigation that became known as the Wragge Report was subject to a Judicial Review in the High Court in 2017. The court examined a number of complaints about the report and they were all dismissed.”

“Through the course of the Wragge investigation I held a series of case conferences with Mr Greenburgh. I am slightly surprised that anyone would think this was not appropriate.”

Sandwell Council said it would not comment on the contents of a confidential report.

The council added: “Sandwell Council is committed to the highest standards of fairness and equality and where issues are brought to our attention we will respond robustly.

“We have recently taken action to ensure our processes are transparent and fair, including external independent input and the establishment of an Equalities Commission, and we will continue to focus on this important area and drive through improvements.”

The Wragge Report was published in 2016. Since then the council has had six different leaders due to regular infighting in the authority’s Labour group.


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FACT-CHECK: How true is Buhari’s claim that Nigeria is better off today than in 2015?

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari likes to boast about the progress he claims the West African nation has made under his administration, which started in May 2015. In many speeches and interviews, he talks about his governance records and how he has performed better than his predecessors, particularly in the areas of anti-corruption, economy, and security.

In addition, the president almost always blames past administrations for current challenges, many times citing the “near destruction of the country” under the PDP which had ruled Nigeria and produced three presidents – Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007); late Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010); and Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015) – in 16 years.

On June 20, Mr Buhari claimed his administration is leaving Nigeria in a “far better place than we found it” seven years ago. The president said this in a written response to questions from Bloomberg.

“We leave Nigeria in a far better place than we found it. Corruption is less hidden, for Nigerians feel empowered to report it without fear, while money is returned; terrorists no longer hold any territory in Nigeria, and their leaders are 2deceased, and vast infrastructure development sets the country on course for sustainable and equitable growth,” Mr Buhari said regarding his performance in fulfilling his pledges to fight corruption, secure the country and fix the economy.

A lot has happened since 2015 when Mr Buhari came into office and his administration is now rounding off, with less than one year to complete his full two terms of four years each.

But how true is the claim that Nigeria is better than he met it in 2015?

Before now, the president has been caught several times making unsubstantiated claims in his speeches. Therefore, to separate facts from fiction, PREMIUM TIMES is examining the three areas of governance that Mr Buhari was asked about in his interview with Bloomberg – corruption, security, and the economy.

Economic performance

Prior to 2015, Nigeria’s inflation rates remained at single digit–even as analysts opined at the time that it was high. For instance, in the whole of 2014, the nation’s inflation rate moved between 7.7 per cent, which was the lowest, to the highest point of 8.5 per cent, official data shows.

By 2015, when Mr Buhari took over power, the inflation rate averaged 9 per cent.

Since then, the nation has seen a surge in inflation rates. Data released by the statistics bureau, NBS, has shown that under Mr Buhari, Nigeria’s inflation rate hit a 16-year high amid an increase in prices and poor purchasing power.

In 2016, inflation rose to 15.68 per cent and jumped to 16.52 per cent in 2017. The numbers dropped to 12.09 per cent in 2018 and down to 11.40 per cent in 2019. By 2020, the inflation had risen to 12.2 per cent and closed in 2021 at 16.95 per cent.

In May, NBS said the inflation rate climbed to 17.71 per cent.

A key element of inflation in Nigeria in recent years is the skyrocketing prices of food and general goods and services.

Over the last seven years, food inflation in Nigeria has averaged 17 per cent – rising, for instance from 9.78 per cent in May 2015 to 20.3 per cent in November 2017.

In 2014, meanwhile, the nation’s food inflation was at 9.2 per cent. It rose to 10.4 per cent at the end of 2015; 17.4 per cent in 2016; 19.42 per cent in 2017; 13.56 per cent in 2018; 14.67 per cent in 2019; and 19.56 per cent in 2020.

Food inflation climbed to 20.57 per cent year-on-year in January 2021, according to data released by the NBS, making it the highest in over 11 years. It closed at 17.37 per cent in December 2021.

In May, however, the food inflation rose to 19.5 per cent amid an increase in prices of staple food across the country. The Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated the problem but prices started surging with hardship deepening well before the conflict.

It is not only inflation that has increased under President Buhari, when he took over power in the second quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate rose to 9.9 per cent in the third quarter of that year from 8.2 per cent in the second quarter, according to the NBS.

Since then, unemployment, poverty, and economic disempowerment have remained a disturbing feature of Nigerian life. Between May 2015 and May 2021, Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than tripled.

The current data on the NBS dashboard shows Nigeria’s unemployment rate is 33.3 per cent, translating to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world.

Similarly, the last poverty survey from the NBS showed that 40 per cent of the Nigerian population, or almost 83 million people, live below the poverty line.

According to the NBS ‘2019, Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report, which was based on data from the Nigerian Living Standards Survey conducted in 2018-2019 with support from the World Bank’s Poverty Global Practice, the nation’s poverty line was put at 137,430 nairas ($381.75) per year.

In June, the World Poverty Clock also put the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria at 83 million, or 39 per cent of the population, while the country’s total population stood at 214 million.

Also, between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria dropped nine places on the Global Human Development Index, HDI, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The country was ranked 152 out of 187 countries in 2014. But, in 2019, the index placed Nigeria 161 out of 189 countries worldwide. The country scored low on all three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living.

Also, between May 2015 and now, the Nigerian economy has fallen into recession, twice.

Under Mr Buhari’s stewardship, the economy fell into recession, first, in 2016 when the economy contracted 2.06 per cent between April and June, and in 2020 when COVID-19 decimated economies all over the world.

In November 2015, barely six months after Mr Buhari was inaugurated as president, the naira sold against the dollar at N197. Between then and now, the Nigerian currency has gone through ceaseless devaluation, with two of such exercises occurring in 2020 alone.

This year, the currency had been trading between the range of N417 and N422 for a dollar on the relatively flexible spot market window but on the black market, dealers exchanged the naira at N600 and above.

In the same vein, Nigeria’s debt profile has risen considerably since Mr Buhari took over power, as budgetary proposals have been designed considerably around debts.

According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s debt profile stood at N12.12 trillion as of June 2015, shortly after Mr Buhari took office. The DMO said Nigeria’s total public debt as of March 31, 2022, was N41.6 trillion. The figures include the Debt Stock of the Federal and State Governments, as well as, the Federal Capital Territory.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Buhari administration borrowed three times the combined amount by past governments since 1999.

Having looked at these key economic indices – inflation, unemployment rate, exchange rate, GDP and recession, food prices, and debt level, PREMIUM TIMES found that all these elements have worsened under Mr Buhari than they were before he took office in 2015.

Hence, the president’s claim that Nigeria is better economically is false.

Security

Before Mr Buhari took office in 2015, Nigeria was beleaguered by security threats, most considerably Boko Haram holding a large territory within the borders of the country and causing a humongous humanitarian disaster in the country’s North-east.

Since 2015, Nigeria has made advances against the terrorists and pushed them to the fringes of Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad Islands when the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWAP, is believed to be headquartered. But the re-capturing of much of the areas, especially northern Adamawa, including Michika, Mubi, and Madagali, and parts of Borno, including Gwoza and Bama, occurred between late 2014 and early 2015 under President Goodluck Jonathan.

PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters have repeatedly conducted on-the-ground reporting in the area and Nigeria newspapers, including ours, published reports of the military successes in those areas just before Mr Jonathan exited.

But the area remains highly militarised and several villages around Michika and Madagali in northern Adamawa and Gwoza, Uba, and Lassa in Borno remain prone to Boko Haram attacks. Fishing activities on the Lake Chad islands are still largely controlled by ISWAP, a key part of their financing. In June, the House of Representatives noted an “increase” in Boko Haram attacks in northern Adamawa and mandated the military to reinforce security in the affected communities.

While success is being recorded in the North-east, other parts of the country have become hotbeds of violence. Outside Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, the original base of the terrorists, ISWAP has claimed responsibility for attacks on military formations and civilians in Taraba and Kogi States this year.

Then, apparent mismanagement of the country’s diversity by Mr Buhari, who repeatedly made divisive comments (the 97 vs 5 comments, for example), has aggravated ethnoreligious distrust and tensions and fuelled secessionist agitations.

In the northwest, bandit groups are virtually in charge, operating from ungoverned forests and exploiting the absence of police and local administration. Having originated in Zamfara State, the gang violence has since spread to five other nearby states, namely Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Niger, the last of which is in North-central.

In the middle part of the country, thousands of people have been killed in increasingly vicious land disputes between cattle herders and farmers. Farther to the south, the Biafran agitation has turned increasingly violent in the South-east. And in various pockets throughout the country, kidnapping has become common on major highways and schools.

Recently, rarely does a day go by without the press reporting a deadly attack or a kidnapping. In the first quarter of 2022, at least, 2,968 people were killed from mass atrocities while 1,484 were abducted, according to data released by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST).

Our findings revealed that while significant progress has been in the northeast, Mr Buhari has, on a larger scale, failed to keep the promise of securing Nigeria.

This claim by the president is, therefore, rated not true.

Corruption

The perception of corruption in Nigeria under Mr Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, averaged 25.8 per cent. The score fluctuated between 24 and 27 per cent during the five years of Mr Jonathan.

Mr Buhari’s tenure as of 2020 averaged 26.6 per cent. Within the five years since he assumed office, the country’s score has ranged between 25 and 28 per cent, according to Transparency International (TI).

Nigeria’s ranking on the global index has, however, not been impressive. Between 2016 and 2020, Nigeria has slipped in the country ranking by 13 positions, from 136 in 2016 to 149 in 2020. The rankings are from 1 to 180, with 180 indicating the country that has the worst perception of corruption.

But a country’s placement on the ranking may not be because the country was perceived to be more corrupt; instead, the perception of corruption in other countries changed, Transparency International said.

A PREMIUM TIMES analysis of the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by TI showed that Mr Buhari had the best performance in fighting corruption compared to his predecessors since 1999.

Mr Buhari has not made a significant ethical impact on the system by force of personal example and political will. He has not disclosed what his treatments in the United Kingdom for undisclosed ailments cost taxpayers and he has been captured at various times forging political alignments with individuals either indicted and being prosecuted or being investigated for corruption by the anti-graft agencies.

Cases of alleged serious corruption – like those of Stella Oduah, Danjuma Goje, and Godswill Akpabio – are believed to have gone “silent” after the affected politicians joined Mr Buhari’s APC or aligned with his political interest.

Also, after Panama Papers and Pandora Papers investigations offered the law enforcement agencies actionable intelligence with the releases of Nigerian past and serving officials who may have breached the country’s code of conduct law, no action has followed.

Then, Mr Buhari pardoned two former governors – Joshua Dariye, Plateau State; and Jolly Nyame, Taraba State – who were convicted and jailed for corruption, devastating the morale of the country’s anti-graft operatives, who had committed many years of work to investigate and secure the convictions.

Apart from appointing individuals already under investigation for monumental corruption to serve in his government, he allowed serving officials exposed for corrupt practices, especially procurement fraud, to remain in service. A think thank, Centre for Democracy and Development says that Mr Buhari’s anti-corruption promises remain “largely unmet”

Despite having been indicted twice for corruption by separate probes, the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos remains in office. And Mr Buhari allows the NDDC to remain without a board and substantive management, making the organisation vulnerable to corruption. The result of an audit of the NDDC by the president is yet to be made public.

“As the candidate who rode into office in 2015 on a wave of popular anger with entrenched elite corruption, he has made little effort to reform Nigeria’s patronage-fueled, scandal-prone public sector or hold his top officials accountable for their business-as-usual approach,” CDD said in its report, titled, “Buhari’s Anti-Corruption Record at Six Years: An Assessment.”

This claim by the president is, therefore, rated not true.


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Papua New Guinea begins voting in key elections | News

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Voters in Papua New Guinea are heading to the polls to cast ballots on the first day of voting in the country’s national elections.

Some 10,000 police, army and corrections services personnel were mobilised for Monday’s vote. Australia also deployed 130 soldiers with transport aircraft to help secure the lengthy voting process across the country of nine million, which has a history of corruption and election-related killings.

Voting is scheduled to take up to 18 days and an outcome is not expected to be clear until August.

“We want transparency, we want accountability and above all, we want a safe, fair and secured polling period,” Prime Minister James Marape said after voting.

Election rivalries can quickly spill over into bloodshed in Papua New Guinea, especially in the remote and mountainous provinces.

During the last vote in 2017, Australian National University monitors documented more than 200 election-related killings and widespread “serious irregularities”.

This year, 15 election-related deaths have already been recorded, according to Papua New Guinea police.

In the highlands province of Enga, a candidate was charged with shooting and killing the supporter of a political rival on June 26, police told local media.

Marape conceded in an end-of-campaign message that there was still “rampant corruption in all strata of public service”.

The prime minister, who has promised to make Papua New Guinea the “richest Black Christian nation”, said there had been a lack of development despite the country’s “God-given” resources.

“I admit there is much more to be done for our country,” said Marape, who leads the Pangu party.

He faces a stiff challenge from his predecessor Peter O’Neill, who resigned as leader three years ago under pressure over endemic corruption and a perceived failure to spread mining wealth to the people.

O’Neill, of the People’s National Congress party, has pledged to attract private investment and revive the resources industry.

The country boasts large deposits of gas, oil, gold and copper, and is an exporter of forestry and agricultural products.

“There are worrying signs around our nation that the election has been very poorly prepared for and interference seems rife,” O’Neill charged.

“I hope the good officers of our security forces at all levels can ensure we have free, fair and safe elections.”

Analysts say the new leader will have to cobble together a coalition government in the male-dominated 118-seat parliament, which has had no women members since the 2017 polls.

“Elections are always messy and chaotic and they can get very violent,” Jessica Collins, Pacific researcher at the independent Sydney-based Lowy Institute think-tank, told the AFP news agency.

In an ethnically diverse country with more than 800 languages, analysts say voters are less interested in national issues than the material benefits candidates can bring home to local communities.

“People want to know what their candidate is going to do for them and for the village: the real, hard currency stuff,” Collins said.

Further complicating the process, the electoral roll is not up to date, said Pacific analyst Henry Ivarature at the Australian National University.

“So the whole integrity of this election is already under question,” he said.

The government that emerges from the elections will face significant challenges.

Nearly 40 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line, according to a 2020 report by the World Bank.

The resources- and agriculture-dependent economy posted a “weak recovery” last year, the Asian Development Bank said, after being battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with only about 3 percent of the total population fully vaccinated.


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Anti-Corruption Branch Of Delhi Govt Can Investigate Corruption Allegations Against Delhi Police Officials: High Court

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The Delhi High Court recently rejected the argument set forth by an official of the Delhi Police that the corruption allegations levelled against him cannot be investigated by the Anti Corruption Branch of the Delhi government for the reason that the agency falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In doing so, Justice Jasmeet Singh relied on Anil Kumar v. GNCT of Delhi where it was held that since the Delhi Police personnel serve the citizens in the national capital and the functions of the agency substantially and essentially relate to the affairs of Delhi, the Anti-Corruption Branch of Delhi government has the jurisdiction to entertain and act on a complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act in respect of a Delhi Police officer, and to investigate and prosecute the crime.

The bench observed,

Any official of the Central government accused of corruption cannot get away with the mere technicality of the Anti Corruption Branch not investigating them. When a complaint is made to an authority in charge, it is the duty of that authority to duly investigate and look into the said allegations. They may after due diligence, transfer the matter to the concerned authority to look into the same but they have the right to investigate the same at the time of lodging of the complaint.

The Court was dealing with a petition filed by a Sub Inspector in Delhi Police accused of taking bribery, seeking quashing and setting aside of the order on charge passed by Special Judge (PC Act) in which charges under sec. 7, 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act were framed.

The complainant in the matter had applied for an Arms licence and it was alleged that the petitioner visited his residence for inquiry regarding the same.

It was further submitted in the complaint that the petitioner asked the complainant to pay a bribe of Rs. 20,000 for sending his report for grant of Arms licence and after some negotiation the petitioner reduced the amount to Rs. 10,000. The complainant, thus, handed over a sum of Rs. 1,000 to the petitioner, recorded the conversation and provided a CD of the same later on.

It was thus alleged that the petitioner contacted the complainant to meet him for collecting the remaining balance amount of Rs. 9,000.

Subsequently, on personal search of the petitioner, 10 GC notes of denomination of 500 and 4 notes of Rs. 1,000 amounting to a total of Rs. 9,000 were recovered from his right hand and the serial number of the recovered currency notes tallied with the serial numbers noted in the pre- raid proceedings. During investigation, the petitioner was interrogated and an FIR was lodged against him.

The petitioner had approached the Court on the ground that he was exonerated in departmental proceedings and according to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ashoo Surendranath Tewari v. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, criminal proceedings cannot continue against him.

It was also added that the petitioner was a Sub Inspector in Delhi Police and thus the Anti-Corruption Branch of Delhi Government had no jurisdiction to investigate the offence against a Sub Inspector working in Delhi Police which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Court noted that the complainant himself deposed during the departmental enquiry that he offered a bribe for his timely verification and the petitioner herein declined it.

“The recording of the demand and subsequent filing of FIR by the complainant seems vitiated and not reliable under circumstances discussed above,” the Court said.

The Court was of the view that when departmental proceedings and the criminal proceedings were a mirror image of each other and the petitioner was exonerated on merits in the departmental inquiry, the criminal proceedings on the same set of facts and circumstances cannot be permitted to be continued.

The Court also said that the standard of proof in departmental proceedings is much lower than the standard of proof in criminal proceedings.

However, rejecting the petitioner’s argument that since he was a Sub Inspector in Delhi Police, the Anti-Corruption Branch of Delhi Government would have no jurisdiction to investigate the offence, the Court observed thus:

“…..the argument of the petitioner that the ACB would not have jurisdiction to investigate into his case on the basis of a complaint made to them, cannot be sustained. Any official of the Central government accused of corruption cannot get away with the mere technicality of the Anti Corruption Branch not investigating them.”

The Court allowed the plea after opining that the petitioner was exonerated in departmental proceedings and further there was no substantial material on record to show the need to continue the criminal proceedings against him.

“…the petition is thus allowed and the order of charge dated 10.03.2021, passed by learned Special Judge (PC Act) CBI, Rouse Avenue Courts, Delhi, and all subsequent proceedings emanating therefrom are hereby set aside,” the Court ordered.

Case Title: JOHNSON JACOB v. STATE

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 602

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