PNG has failed its people: Julius Chan
Speer MBE is inaugural life member of MvM group

Combating PNG corruption: a blueprint for action


If the PNG government and parliament are really serious about combating corruption at all levels, then an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) must be set up immediately.

Setting up an ICAC entity has been mooted many times before in various public forums, but nothing substantive has resulted.

The main reason for inaction is that successive PNG governments have always lacked the political will to stamp out corruption.

An ICAC should be a principal agency with a statutory charter to investigate and prevent corruption. It must be totally independent of the executive branch of government.

Its principal objectives should be:

To vigilantly enforce anti-corruption laws and to make corruption a high-risk crime.

To identify and eliminate opportunities for corruption in government departments and public bodies by reviewing their procedures and practices.

To promote corruption prevention in private sector business.

To educate the community about the evils of corruption and enlist their support in the war against corruption.

The anti-corruption agency needs a simple plan of action before employing more complex strategies to combat corruption.

It should conduct investigation, prevention and education through operations, corruption prevention and community relations divisions.

The agency must implement effective strategies - such as employing proactive investigation techniques - to identify and prosecute instances of corruption which might otherwise go unreported.

It should use undercover operations and intelligence and information technology if it needs to.

In addition, its investigators must be given continuous professional training to keep pace with the changing commercial environment, technological advances and developments in criminal investigation techniques.

The training should embrace a wide range of topics, including financial investigation, IT applications, computer forensics, video interview techniques, case management and court proceedings.

Joint operations groups must be established comprising retired senior officers, dedicated agents and the disciplined services. Regular meetings should be held to ensure operational liaison, address common concerns, and develop anti-corruption strategies within the respective disciplined services.

ICAC's main strategic tasks should be focused on reducing opportunities for corruption in government departments and other public bodies.

It should include advising private sector bodies on corruption prevention. The agency must conduct detailed studies of public sector practices and procedures and help them to effectively implement corruption prevention measures.

Establishing ICAC in PNG will help other state agencies develop their corruption prevention capability by producing best practice on ways to prevent, minimise or curb corruption-related opportunities in corruption prone areas like procurement, staff administration, information system security, contract letting and administration.

A good community relations strategy is required to educate the public and enlist their support in the fight against corruption.


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Malcolm Dickson

I am doing research on the early Foreign Ministers such as Kiki, Olewale and Ila. I worked for them 1975-1979. Would you be able to update me ?

Reginald Renagi

A’ Sunrise Clause’ is a good provision to use. I see no real problems here but again this may take time like previous attempts to draft required legislation amendments over the years by the Constitutional Review Committee, Law Reform Committee, Joint Parliamentary Committees and other well-meaning bodies have all ended up as thick reports collecting dust in some dark corners of ‘Waigani’ because successive governments have found this all too hard to study them properly and take action.

Paul Oates’s idea of using the younger PNG MPs to form a coalition is also a very good approach here. I support this on the basis that they are a like-minded parliamentary force, more educated and open minded politicians. They are more 'issues conscious' parliamentarians than the PM and other senior MPs who are unable to well articulate, or seriously address public policy issues both in and out of parliament. These young MPs will make a difference in future.

In addition, I see another clever way that is can be well used to best effect from here on is having a national champion in our Governor General. The Queens’ representative in PNG has in recent times made some political incorrect but relevant public statements in the media and special public forums (like key note speeches and school graduation closing address ceremonies) have tend to shame the prime minister and his government in more ways than one. Certain community interest groups have cleverly used this ‘anti-corruption warrior in their recent "walk against corruption" with many opposition party members also taking part. As usual the PM and key government ministers were notable MIAs.

The GG can be a long term strategy against corruption if the PM is not addressing this issue. Sir Paulius Matane very presence in walking with the public is a good way to make the public know that the ordinary people has had enough of the government’s B.S, and the country must move forward with; or with them. It is a very powerful message and weapon against government impotency. PNG’s Vice-Regal is with the people in this for the long haul and he is not very impressed at the government's slackness and has called for the people and nation to reject corruption in its many forms.

Such actions by a well respected grand chief like our Vice Regal supported by the people may one day soon shame an inept government and force it to set up a national anti-corruption body like an ICAC. I fully support Paul Oates’s suggestion to create a national ground swell of anti-corruption sentiments (or noise). This can be done using whatever means to combat corruption in PNG.

Finally, the PNG government and opposition must work well in a bipartisan spirit of cooperation to curb the debilitating effects of corruption by adopting the mix of alternative options suggested here.

Reginald Renagi

Paul Oates's suggestion for a people's power way (a popular revolt by the people as in President Marcos overthrow in the Philippines some years ago)is also a very good way to change a government that is corrupt must only be as last resort approach for PNG. I agree that it is certainly fraught with danger and unless it is well planned and carried out, it may turn out more chaotic and dangerous than Philippines 'People Power' revolution.

PNG society is very much made up of many different cultural groups with most provincial towns now being overpopulated by certain ethnic regional groups. These groups of people are still not very civilized and are traditionally still highly prejudiced in their attitude towards others in the rest of the country.

These people are in such great numbers that they have formed their own regional enclaves in capital major such centers as Port Moresby, Lae. These regional enclaves needs close surveillance by the authorities as they will always turn a peaceful people's power public demonstration (protest marches) into a tribal war incident and create a nationwide anarchy that will always be difficult to control, if it gets out of hand. During any planned confusion and melee that follows in the streets, criminal elements will always take advantage of mass public rally opportunities to commit crime, and other violent activities directed at business houses and other foreigners working in PNG.

The Accountant’s Alternative is easy and has been in existence since Independence. But unless an opposition moved “no-confidence” motion is successful, we will keep ruling our books off whether it balances or not to start all over again every five years. This four then five year election cycle has not really fixed the real problems of PNGbecause of poor leadership and mismanagement of the country's rich resources. Previous perpetrators (now in the opposition and the new government coalition) are more or less forgotten as the new political regime tries to only focus on the present, hoping it does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. This can not continue for obvious reasons and something must give way somewhere along the way.

The other way is to always wait for the next new government to come along in 2012. This has been the case for over 34 years and there is no real guarantee that the next lot of politicians will be better than the last bad bunch. The opposition is no saint either but they are the lesser risk at present due to their small numbers. Once they are in power and get into public office, no doubt they will also be singing a different tune altogether as the new government, as proven many times in PNG and elsewhere.

The reality today is our over-bloated government has no real political will. If they won't do it then who will? Maybe other development partners like Australia (through AusAid) or China can help a bit, but at what cost as they all have different national interests - not poor PNG...A People Power Movement? A security forces coup? Public Disobedience strategies?

Reginald Renagi


Changing any government takes five years unless other means are employed to shorten this period. The government’s constant vacillation on this issue continually frustrates the opposition and citizens by its delaying tactics in and outside parliament. In reality, the PM and the government (as coalition partners are afraid to initiate something on their own from within) just don't have the guts to bite the bullet and take a strong lead role to directly combat corruption that is eating away the fabric of PNG society.

This may sound pathetic, but let us not hold our breath too long with this government doing anything right by the country before the 2012 polls. Its poor track record has become predictable in not critically addressing outstanding public concerns and national issues like: White Collar Crime, Gun Control legislation, Gambling (Banning Casinos), Legalizing Prostitution, improving the Law & Order situation, Stopping Violence towards women, children and other marginalized groups, Effective National Anti-Aids Strategies, rehabilitating the national Infrastructure, Health, Education and Unemployment; and the list just goes on...

Sir Mekere Morauta's opposition party must do more than run ‘hot and cold’ during parliament sessions. The opposition unfortunately lacks the required assertiveness. It is time it develops some effective and integrated coordinated strategies in and out of parliament to keep the government on its toes on many outstanding national issues.

The opposition is constantly cowered into submission and lacks the numbers required to be a credible force in parliament. It must try to do more and be a credible political threat to the coalition government through using innovative and proactive community-related tactics.

The opposition leader can achieve a good outcome by successfully leveraging the opposition party's parliamentary efforts by drawing the required support from civil society and general citizenry. Sir Mekere Morauta must now work really hard from here on to get support from such groups as the NGOs, faith based (churches) organizations and other community interest groups: unions, women and youth groups, including private sector bodies to put constant pressure on Prime Minister Somare in different forums aimed at getting the government to seriously address issues of sovereign responsibility, accountability and good governance.

Reginald Renagi

Even if a proposed ICAC legislation does not kick off, PNG as a nation can not afford the luxury of time to just wait and see just because the prime minister and his government are still dragging their feet on this issue. But apart from politicians, any educated and critical thinking Papua New Guinean in a strategic leadership and senior management position can immediately adopt some of the basic anti-corruption strategies I outlined in my last PNG Attitude “issues” comments.

Thus, each department secretary, CEO of state and private organizations can still independently implement the required practical strategies to strengthen their own organizational effectiveness and good governance. There is nothing stopping an organization from taking immediate action by implementing its own corporate plans and ‘in-house’ anti-corruption strategies.

Over time, inter-agency strategic framework support links will legally form to fully embrace the whole country. Each state agency including private bodies can do this pretty much on their own now then just ‘marking time’ waiting for a government that is still drafting its national anti-corruption strategy (or so they say as recently reported in the media).

Reginald Renagi


Someone by the name of Michael Somare is already in power to do it, but still unfortunately has not got around to it. The government and its leadership is presently preoccupied with too many external distractions to critically address domestic policy considerations with the required affirmative action. If and when it does, the whole country may be up in an uproar by then so let’s hope it does not come to that ‘end state’ (‘touchwood’).

Having said that, even if an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) or its equivalent anti-corruption body has not been set up yet, there are still many ways in skinning a cat. There are several different mix of alternatives we can still use with good effect to work around this technical snag by all responsible agencies being more proactive and synergistically taking the paths of “least resistance”.

Mari Ellingson

All the comments are valid and highlight one aspect or another of this degenerating disease and its growing institutionalisation.

I think what is needed is to 'unpack' large words like corruption et al and explain what they are to ordinary Papua New Guineans - dare to do it in at least 800 languages.

Could this be a start of the 'peaceful groundswell' Paul is talking about. The results could be startling.

But try asking for resources to do this...another story.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Reg has obviously put a lot of thought into his blueprint and it reads well. The only thing I might suggest is that there probably needs to be branches of the ICAC at the Provincial level. Paul also rightly points out that no government is likely to crap in its own nest. If the Opposition, which I gather stands a good chance at the next election, is not prepared to take on corruption (it won't come out and commit itself for some reason - wonder why?) then perhaps a popular insurrection is the only way to go. That said, and with the comments of some of the younger Papua New Guinean respondents to Keith's blog in mind,there would be no point in violence. If they can use the politics of non-violence in the Philipines why can't it be done in PNG?

It also occurred to me while I was reading Reg's article that the maddening indifference to PNG in the Australian media might be a product of their view of PNG as a failed state. Who wants to read about another basket case third world cesspit (even if it has got an almost finalised LNG project)?

Paul Oates

Hi Reg,

A good plan but unfortunately, it needs someone in power to implement it.
The perennial difficulty with this subject is always this nexus: You don't
need anti corruption initiatives unless the government is corrupt, yet the
only authority who can initiate anti corruption legislation is the

The only instance that immediately comes to mind where a government leader
made a fundamental mistake of this nature was a few decades ago when the NSW
Premier Nick Greiner created an anti corruption authority and then became
its first victim. I don't think even the PNG government would be that short
sighted as recent events with the Moti Inquiry proves.

The essence of the problem is that there seems to be only two alternatives
to the current PNG government 'modus operandi' of 'Do nothing and profit by

The first alternative is to have a change in the government. Clearly that
won't happen any time soon due the current government effectively
manipulating Parliament and relegating that elected body to a rubber stamp.
The current Opposition seems totally unable to use the framework set up to
effect accountability due to the safety valve of the Office of the Ombudsman
having apparently been compromised by a recent appointment by the Prime

The second method is unfortunately fraught with danger but has been
canvassed by some younger and frustrated bloggers recently. This alternative
involves the removal of the 'elected' government by some form of force. This
type of action could involve anything on a continuum starting with the so
called "People Power" that toppled Marcos in the Philippines to the classic
revolutionary actions of Africa, Asia and South America. The bloodier the
conflict, the greater the chance that this usually creates a leader who,
once he has seized power by force, can only retain power by the same method.

There is however perhaps a third way. In a previous article on this blog, I
suggested that people could consider the 'Accountant's Alternative'. That
is, when you can't get a balance no matter what you do, 'rule off and start

What about promoting the idea that the PNG government must enact anti
corruption legislation but with a 'Sunrise Clause' attached. That is; The
clock starts ticking at the time when the legislation gains Royal assent.
There is no retrospectivity and previous perpetrators are 'forgiven'. Of
course appropriate laws are already in place but just not currently being
properly policed. This alternative would require some fancy footwork in the
drafting of the legislation to ensure all previous crime of any nature
wasn't altogether ignored.

Now then? Who could be against this idea but those who don't want to take
their hands out of the biscuit barrel? These 'recalcitrant's and
recidivists' could then be shamed (a REALLY good, traditional PNG custom for
achieving results), into either political oblivion or to 'climb on the band
wagon'. The 'Banned Wagon' being an anti corruption train that almost
everyone wants.

Who has the political will to stand up and promote this idea? Well, I see a
number of younger PNG politicians who have been recently prepared to stand
up and speak out. A coalition of these people with support from NGO's,
Service and Church organisations and businesses, all of who are sick to
death of the current regime, could and I suspect would help. Once a peaceful
ground swell happens, its hard to stop the momentum. Its also easy to
isolate and point the finger at those who don't want anything to change and
ask 'WHY'?

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