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Crook, clean & mean – where are we at?


What have we got so far with our Crook, Clean and Mean project. Put simply, a compost heap that merely smells bad.

I’ve been wending my way through over 100 pages of emails, press clippings, blogs and other sources collected as part of “The Crook, the Clean and the Mean” project.

Let me make it clear at the start, most of it is dross, chaff, hearsay and piffle. The sort of thing that wouldn’t stand up in a light breeze let alone the strong wind of evidence-based inquiry.

It is all rather disappointing. There’s been much ranting and raving by commentators on this blog (and elsewhere) about corruption in PNG, but no one seems to have firm evidence of actual citable cases.

Either that or they are not game to share it with us.

There is a distinct odour of PNG alarmism about the whole thing; the sort of noises you get when there are rumours of sorcerers about.

The maddening thing is that we all know corruption is rife. We’ve all seen the smoke, but no one seems to know where to find the fire.

The usual comment about corruption is that the government must immediately do this or the government must immediately do that.

Government is not going to do this or that when its holding all the cards.

It has to be exposed for the corrupt fraud that it is and forced to make changes.

What can we make of what we’ve got so far?

A large part of the impetus for corruption seems to be coming from outside politics and the public service. That’s a bit of a surprise.

It works in this way. A company or individual seeking special treatment, trying to do something illegal or just avoiding red tape, approaches a public servant or politician and offers a bribe, which is then taken up and the desired effect realised.

The cabals of lawyers working up false compensation claims are a case in point.

While there is corruption initiated by public servants or politicians, it is more likely to be in the form of creaming commissions or selling privileges in the same way Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, tried to do in the UK. 

My impression is that corrupting influences coming from the private sector is the greatest problem. Much of this is initiated by lawyers.

The vast majority of the stories about corruption and the misuse of public funds can be put down to ineptitude and stupidity. 

The constant charge is “we don’t know what has happened to the funds, we don’t know what the government has done with the money”.

When you track back, you find a plethora of stupid decisions made by people who don’t really know what they are doing. 

Sure, there is petty pilfering and nepotism along the way but, by and large, it is idiots who lose the money.

In fact, many of the individual cases of corruption or misuse of public funds are acted upon by the police and other authorities.

To cite just two recent examples, the head of the Southern Highlands Province police has asked the Finance Secretary in Port Moresby to investigate alleged unauthorised processing of about K200,000 by the Provincial Treasurer.

And, in the Simbu Province, a prison commander has been arrested for misusing K27,800 in public funds.

The SHP is a pretty wild and woolly region, and would be the last place you’d expect crooks to be held to account. Maybe zapping the little fish is a ploy to keep the heat off the big predators.

Obfuscation is a method developed to a fine degree in PNG. It starts with half-baked report in the media, usually lacking in useful detail and designed simply for sensation, and ends with the responsible politician or public servant who reacts not because they are necessarily hiding something but because they haven’t got a clue about what’s going on in their area of responsibility.

There is also public cowardice in PNG. People sit by and watch corrupt practises in action but haven’t the guts to do anything about it.

The consistent use of pen names on this blog is a symptom of this malaise.  Until the public generates a bit of moral fibre there is little hope of changing anything.

The best result one gets from the public after the press hints at yet another corruption debacle is outraged indignation. This seems to last a day or so and is then forgotten.

In my experience going red in the face doesn’t do you or anyone else much good.

What we have collected in our project so far clearly demonstrates that corruption is always about money., although sometimes it may not seem like it.

The recent amendment to the Environment Act - so people can’t protest against damaging mining practices - may seem to be about politics, but ultimately it comes down to profit and the politician’s cut.

The government says the legislation is designed to secure PNG’s economic future, but who believes that?

This insidious sort of corruption is the most dangerous because it has ramifications for the future.

What the corrupt cabal in government is doing, as it pulls the strings on the aged puppet that is Michael Somare, is destroying the future of PNG’s children for its own short-term greed.

And it seems to be doing so with the help of an ineffectual and compliant opposition. Their motto is profit now and bugger the future.

PNG desperately needs three things:

A well-resourced and trained police force.

A top-notch training facility for public servants and administrators.

A really independent judiciary, including the Ombudsman’s Office.

An independent media of the kind exemplified by the ABC in Australia might also be handy.

Something also needs to be done about the lawyers. They are experts at bending and subverting the legal system for their own and their client’s benefit.  They do it all over the world.

It doesn’t matter if something is patently immoral, they’ll do it as long as it is at least marginally legal.

It is my observation that the legal fraternity, both public and private, are the biggest threat to PNG, more so than any crooked politician or public servant.

So what have we got in the barrel so far? Not much, just a few names of errant politicians who are in the public domain anyway.

Come on, you complainers and critics, forget the righteous waffle and the rhetoric, give us some real dope we can use!


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Paul Oates

Could it be that things are starting to move in the right direction?


Wanton abuse by public servants

WHEN will the so-called public servants become good servants of the state?

On May 29, a yellow government vehicle (registration number provided) belonging to PNG Customs Service was seen at a public beach in Lae with the driver and passengers consuming alcohol in public.

To add salt to the wound, the only female passenger was seen sitting on the bonnet drinking alcohol without a care in the world in full public view.

It is becoming a real concern when public servants fail to uphold the integrity of the department they represent.

This is not the first time this particular group of officers is seen drinking in public.

The good work of Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa has been tarnished by the handful of minorities.
The commissioner should investigate and reprimand these officers because we are fed up with this kind of behaviour.

Samson Tsika

Customs does not tolerate abuse

I read with great concern the letter "Wanton abuse by public servants" (June 3) by Samson Tsika in regards to his concern about misuse of government vehicles by officers of the PNG Customs Services in Lae.

I would like to thank the writer and commend him for his prompt initiative.

We have taken steps to identify the officers, check the facts and take necessary disciplinary action.

If it is proven Customs officers were involved, they will be dealt with.

I encourage such reports be made as we work to improve our service and better serve our nation.
I demand a disciplined work ethic, based on transparency, hard work and professionalism of my staff and I welcome any form of positive criticism that will assist us to improve.

For further details on how to report matters of impropriety, corruption, smuggling of drugs, firearms or suspicious activities, please contact my office 322 6793 or fax 320 0571 or the Customs Intelligence Division on phones 322 6894, 322 6888, 322 6889 or fax 3212176 or alternatively you may email the director intelligence at mlahui. [email protected]

Gary Juffa
Commissioner PNG Customs Services

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