Centropolis? The lost city of PNG....
Cholera death toll 500 & 10,000 victims

Disappearing down the maw of corruption


I REFER YOU to the announcement this week, Thursday, in Port Moresby, by Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police , Fred Yakasa.

It was to the effect that K4 billion of public funds disappears annually down the great maw of corruption - being the Ministries and much of the Public Service.

I wrote here more than a year or ago that, whilst there is a perception commonly held in Australia that PNG politics is a sea of corruption, it is not generally understood just how wide and deep this problem is, nor of its social origins.

My piece attracted a number of tut-tuts, one contributor going so far as to say "John, stating that PNG's social culture encourages universal dishonesty is like saying that all Muslims are terrorists."

Well, we must all speak for ourselves. Being tolerant to a fault, I made no rejoinder at the time. I am the sort of person who unfailingly invites Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness evangelists in for a drink of water and a pee.

Thus I only infrequently indulge in sending what comes round to go round again.

I do hope that a sense of reality may begin to pervade the somewhat sunny views of PNG today, as held by many fellow bloggers.

It doesn’t stop you liking the place, or the people. It makes you more useful in your own tiny way if you realise the depth of the problems in PNG.

It’s an accident about to happen in slow-motion. Bandages and iodine are appropriate; not prayers and lugubrious reflections upon "the old days".

Returning to the situation evoked by Fred Yakasa, I was in discussion with a young AusAID official about 18 months ago. Holding forth about his job, he told me with glee of his cunning and “street-smarts”, where, working with Government Treasury officers in Port Moresby, he had formed a sort of “self-defense posse” against plundering politicians.

These people would enter offices as soon as they were aware of the arrival of funds into certain accounts and demand to see both the bank statements and signed blank cheques giving them access.

My informant was overjoyed with what he described as a “Canberra ploy” where AusAID consultants showed the local finance men how to create so-called “hollow logs” - hidden accounts where sums could be kept at will, unknown to the raiding politicians. Probably interest-bearing savings accounts by arrangement with brothers in the banks.

This latter is a ploy I have experienced myself. Even a lowly 2% on K300,000 for a month will pay for a good Saturday evening out at the nitespots of POM.

I was quite stunned at the level of childish naivety demonstrated. Later I read the term “hollow log” mentioned in a PNG press report dealing with some controversy involving public funds. One must believe that once again the Aussies had triumphed. Sad, isn’t it?


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Robin Lillicrapp

John - Your observations are well endowed with a lifetime of hard-earned experience.

I'm sure the pain of "knowing" is often hard to reconcile with concocting well-researched recipes for recovery that appear to be ignored by AusAID and the like.

It's probably as hard for us expats to conceive of how indifferent to the plight of PNGeans our aid programmers appear to be.

Unfortunately, many of the old foxes in charge of political hen-houses today are well versed in articulating good intentions to appease the critics but are in bed with a political agenda that reaches well beyond the notions of protecting constituted rules of law, and national sovereignty.

I wonder sometimes, with jaded cynicism, whether or not the foreign policy gnomes in Canberra are quite content to let foment a witches brew of discontent on our doorstep for purposes more convenient to them than to our questing for a fairer and more equitable outcome for PNG's future.

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