Nearly five months since Special Prosecutor April Dawns Cripps’s term expired, the search for the next Special Prosecutor is still ongoing.
The position of a Special Prosecutor, created by law, gives the President the responsibility to appoint a special prosecutor who then needs confirmation of the Senate. So far, President Surangel Whipps Jr. has not appointed one.
Under the law, if the President does not appoint a Special Prosecutor within six months, the Attorney General appoints an Interim Special Prosecutor, whether or not the President nominates a person to become SP.
The Attorney General is also empowered to appoint an interim SP if the President’s appointee is not confirmed by the Senate and the President has not appointed another one within 60 days.
“I don’t have a person I can appoint to become an SP,” said Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil when contacted about this role.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG)has been struggling for the past couple of years to hire attorneys for the OAG. Attorney General Rengiil, at two different public hearings with Olbiil Era Kelulau, relayed the challenges her office faces in seeking attorneys willing to work in Palau for the offered pay.
It is uncertain when an SP could be appointed, but after January 2024, the Office of the Attorney will need to appoint one.
The Office of Special Prosecutor has successfully prosecuted several corruption cases, including ones involving high-level officials. It serves as an effective deterrent to corruption in public office.