NOOSA - Transparency International PNG made a considerable gift to Papua New Guinea when last year it compiled its selected chronicle of “unresolved issues of national concern”, covering unsettled matters of corruption and ill governance in PNG over the 10 years to 2017.
The descriptions of these issues – presented in an undated document entitled ‘Lest We Forget’ - offer a further illumination and an effective indictment on something readers of PNG Attitude already know too well – that, in considering the affairs of PNG, we cannot go far without running into extreme examples of corrupt and incompetent practice.
This well-compiled report (linked to above), which includes six practical recommendations for improvement, describes 20 cases divided into six categories: risky state investments; state-sanctioned land grabs; state agencies lacking accountability; state abuse of assets and funds; state laxness to critical bills; and state travesty of justice.
You will have noted the repetitious use of the word ‘state’ – for each of these matters can be clearly pegged back to the PNG government itself.
This is a government which Australia continues to support with $550 million in 2017-18 (Manus refugee expenditure, some of which remains in PNG, is about another $350 million) and whose kleptomania is the mammoth in the closet of Australia-PNG relationships.
I have written previously (see here or here) of the threat posed by Australia’s failure to secure “a more sophisticated and embracing concord developed on the strong foundation of an equal, honest and authentic relationship.
“Between the escalation of China’s influence and the shallow, money-based association we have nurtured with PNG, Australia may already be well advanced in creating a major strategic problem for itself.”
I reiterate this thesis here to indicate that PNG’s unresolved problems with corruption and governance are also Australia’s unresolved problems, and Transparency PNG’s reminder needs to be set against this background.
The report did not require surreptitious investigation or extensive surveillance. As Transparency says, it is drawn mainly from “publicly-available information including newspaper articles, online reports, and telephone interviews and email correspondence with individuals familiar with the issues.”
In their introduction to the report, the perspicacity of which demands I reproduce it here in full, the authors write:
“Papua New Guinea has become a land of lost opportunity with poor governance preventing the nation from reaching its full potential to enable growth, peace and prosperity for its eight million people.
“The improper use of public funding and resources by individuals and state agencies and the lack of accountability and transparency in major government-funded projects have created an air of uncertainty and enabled a conducive environment for improper conduct.
“The drafters of the Papua New Guinea Constitution in the pre-independence period called for the equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth among all citizens.
“But that appeal has over the years been skewed by individuals in positions of power in their favour, marginalising thousands of people and communities and ensuring that the wealth of the nation remained in the hands of an elite few.
“The country’s weak institutional structures continue to make the different arms of government and agencies vulnerable to poor governance.”
There is a short list of six recommendations, none of which would be too daunting a challenge for an honest and competent government, a useful timeline of the 20 cases considered, a summary of Transparency PNG’s own actions in relation to each a good bibliography.
In its conscientious and intelligent rendering of these outstanding matters of corruption and poor governance, Transparency PNG has issued a challenge to both the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments and given the rest of us a benchmark against which their performance and morality can be judged.
I came to this document late, but I’m very glad it finally caught my eye.