A prosecutor representing the Minister for Higher Education and the State admitted in court yesterday that the procedure to annul Father Jan Czuba’s appointment as Secretary for Higher Education was conducted unlawfully.
Attorney Kevin Kipongi of the Attorney General’s Office admitted that the National Executive Council (NEC) never acted on recommendations from the Public Service Commission before revoking Father Jan’s appointment around March 2022.
Under Section 193(1C) of the Constitution and Section 31C of the Public Service Management Act, any revocation of the appointment of public office holders must be in accordance with the recommendations of the Public Service Commission.
In this case, the state acknowledged that the procedure for canceling Father Jan’s appointment was not followed.
The presiding judge, Judge Oagile Key Dingake, bluntly explained to Mr Kipongi why he was defending the case when the process required by law was not followed and he (Kipongi) knew the revocation was unlawful.
Father Jan’s attorney, Edward Sasingian, told the court in a lengthy submission that the NEC erred in law by failing to seek the mandatory recommendations of the Public Services Commission, as required by Article 193(1C) of the Constitution and Section 31C of the Constitution of the Public Services Management Act 1995 prior to the termination of Father Jan’s employment contract.
Mr. Sasingian also contended that the NEC erred in law by also allowing Acting Secretary for Higher Education Francis Hualupmomi to continue to act in that position without recommendations from the Public Services Commission under Article 193(1B) of the Constitution and s. 31B of the Public Service Management Act.
Mr. Sasingian further argued that his client (Ms. Jan) was not granted natural justice when his employment was revoked without being informed until a month later.
Although Father Jan’s contract is due to expire in April this year, Mr Sasingian has applied to the court for his reinstatement due to the numerous delays in the proceedings, mainly caused by the state.
Mr. Kipongi for the state argued that the relevant provisions relied on by the plaintiff (Ms. Jan) were removed in a special Supreme Court referral in 2019 and these would no longer apply once Father Jan’s employment contract expires by April .
However, he acknowledged that mandatory recommendations and lawful procedures were not followed in the termination of Father Jan’s employment contract by NEC and the termination was unlawful.
Judge Dingake reserved his decision for February 28, 2023 at 90:30 a.m. in Waigani National Court.