Defeating the culture of corruption in PNG: will ICAC do it?
06 November 2015
OPPOSITION leader Don Polye has described the K14.76 billion 2016 Papua New Guinea budget as “another hoax” aimed at enriching contractors at the expense of the people and has said the wealth of the country has been “segregated to one side”.
“It does not increase the per capita income of the people,” Polye said. “Look at the current trend for infrastructure. The only people enjoying this luxury, with so much wealth concentrated in Port Moresby, are only four or five companies. Multi million kina contracts are already decided at the top level.”
Polye said decisions went to these contractors without competitive bidding. This was evident before the recent Pacific Games in Port Moresby and would also be seen for APEC 2018.
Polye’s accusation seems to bear out what long-time businessman, Sir Ramon Thurecht, said publicly in 2008 – that the going rate for awarding these lucrative contracts is a 30% cut in the deal.
Thurecht revealed how shameful it was for a syndicate of bureaucrats and politicians to beg for ‘their’ 30% before work would be awarded.
It was a national shame. No politician or bureaucrat stepped forward to defend this serious accusation.
The very people who were entrusted to steer PNG forward did not choose to respond to a charge that they were involved in deep rooted corruption.
“Our biggest challenge now is to work with the government,” said Thurecht, at the time chairman of the PNG Manufacturers Council. “Unfortunately, with the graft and corruption that is permeated in both the bureaucracy and the political level, it is extremely difficult if you win a contract to get your money.”
Thurecht said many businesses could not speak out because they feared the bureaucrats and politicians would retaliate.
It was a warning not to be ignored. Crime and corruption has already driven some of highly skilled and well-educated people out of PNG – a number are now working in Australia.
There were honest, hardworking, sincere and committed bureaucrats and politicians but, if they care about the future of PNG, they need to speak out against this cancer that has crept deep into the core of society.
From a K50 ‘lunch money’ attached to a passport application to lifestyles way beyond the means of bureaucrats and politicians, it appears no normal business will be done in PNG without a ‘gift’ changing hands.
A trainee teacher told me that some lecturers accepted bribes to give ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades to students.
He said graft was so prevalent at his institution that former Grade 10 and 12 students with low marks had been accepted to train as teachers. And these people were admitted at the expense of Grade 12 students with high marks.
Why is corruption so deep rooted in Papua New Guinea, Africa and Asia?
One of the most widely cited factors is the low salaries of civil servants according to Jon Quah, a professor of political science at the University of Singapore.
Inadequate wages force public servants to accept ‘speed money’ to expedite citizens’ requests for services or bribes to bend the rules for people not eligible for permits or benefits, he said.
The expansive role of governments in national development also increases opportunities for administrative discretion and corruption.
There also tends to be a low risk of detection and punishment. Civil services suffer from weak controls and employees see graft as a low-risk, high-reward activity.
The fourth factor fostering rampant corruption in many developing countries is culture – as in PNG with ‘wantokism’, closely knit family or clan groupings and traditions of gift giving open the door for public officials to perform favours for relatives.
But the most important reason for extensive corruption in many developing countries is a lack of political will to do anything about it, combined with ineffective anti-corruption strategies.
In a week that has seen the ICAC bill passed into law in PNG, we are yet to see whether corruption can be minimised or even eradicated altogether.
Effective anticorruption strategies may include paying public servants adequate salaries, reducing opportunities for corruption by removing unnecessary regulation, improving supervision of civil servants in vulnerable positions and increasing the probability of detecting and punishing corrupt individuals.
But the most important strategy is to improve morality within the ranks of senior politicians and bureaucrats.
Remember, the fish starts to rot from the head.
ICAC? Have a look at the proposed Commissioner. It will do nothing and see nothing and hear nothing. Exactly as it is meant to do.
Posted by: Will Self | 07 November 2015 at 08:32 PM
ICAC - under this government, will be like the hinny, more difficult to produce than a mule, with all the good traits of its parents but mostly infertile.
Or ICAC will be the anti-thesis of Task Force Sweep - Task Force Mop?
Now I know where they got the idea for Gotham, the tv series - Penguin looks familiar.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 06 November 2015 at 11:36 PM