LEONARD FONG ROKA
PANGUNA - I re-entered the service of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in May 2017 after a short stint in late 2014-15.
My desire was a permanent career in the Bougainville Peace Agreement and Implementation Department’s referendum directorate. But, as the bosses said, I was kicked out for non-performance.
Non-performance? I had lived through the entirety of the Bougainville Crisis from 1988 to 1997.
I watched, listened and gleaned so much of the politics, suffering and death we went through.
Because of this, over time, in my powerless mind I erected a set of principles or norms that must be present in a Bougainville government I could comfortably work in.
A story by Malum Nalu, ‘Auditor Finds ‘Massive Corruption’ In Bougainville Bureaucracy’ in The National newspaper of 2 September 2013 said “public servants on Bougainville were a law unto themselves, who were seemingly answerable to no one, including the government of Bougainville and PNG”.
This was in 2013 when I was at Divine Word University and not yet in the Bougainville government.
But, after I took up that job in 2017, the very people who carried the virus that I had so hated in 2013 decided to stamp ‘non-performance’ on my head and throw me out of their Buka offices.
Bougainvillean public servants who Nalu wrote are “seemingly answerable to no one” we’re exactly what I encountered in the ABG bureaucracy.
Upon arrival in my office, fellow female Bougainvillean public servants had two mobile phones: the second a special one kept in the office for contacting secret lovers behind their husbands’ and children’s backs.
To me, morality is vital and people who serve Bougainville must have the highest ethics, commitment and dedication. I was also sad for the innocent husbands and children back home.
During my time, Bougainvillean public servants hated walking an hour to the village. And they could not cross the Buka Passage without travel allowance.
In one government team I worked in there were seven members. With the little cargo we had, we required a 10-seater LandCruiser. But we had two.
And when we travelled as part of our community engagement, we only went where there were fine guesthouses and vehicle accessibility. No walking, thank you.
To cover Siwai, Bana and Panguna, we drove each day from comfortable guesthouses in Arawa. Squandering our scarce resources.
It was during our 2017 tours that a villager in Siwai told me, “What a government and leaders we have. Are you people-oriented, or just, public servant comfort-oriented?
“In such projects as this you need to be with the people, not the guesthouses. Give people a little money for their catering and accommodation and they can feel their government and you can also do the same.”
I was defeated by this Panakei man.
It made me think of the public servants I overheard gossiping amongst themselves about how some had private vehicles acquired corruptly from the government fleet. These were then hired back to the government by their corrupt bureaucrat owners.
I also heard how public servants would manipulate the payroll system for their gain. Such boys feared nothing. But it eventually came to light in 2018 in a 15 November Post Courier article revealed ‘ABG public servants dismissed for fraud’.
According to the story they were caught only after they had helped themselves to K360,000 from the public purse.
And, going beyond our coast, it was sad to hear fellows talking about credits for ABG public servants in numerous Port Moresby hotels. It worked like this.
The government paid our lodgings for official duties. But often the intended stay in Moresby was cut short and we went back home. So for the next trip, the government again paid while the previous credits were still there. Over time, this bounty accumulated.
Then the crooks would fly from Buka to Port Moresby and entertain their secret lovers in five-star comfort.
Yes, five-star in Moresby and dust-star in Buka Town. At weekends, the Bougainville Administration compound was nothing but a brothel facilitated by security guards who bit their share as well.
Why should our public office be such dirt? Why should I vote for the political leaders under which this rot is happening in the 2020 ABG election?
As a patriotic Bougainvillean nurtured by the pain endured during the Bougainville Crisis, I was sickened.
Why should Bougainvillean public servants be like this? For me, it opened a jagged tear in my heart.
So when the referendum directorate would not pay the K300 housing allowance it owed me for some sort of accommodation in Buka Town in 2017, I walked off with a government issued laptop.
And I was kicked out for non-performance.
There’s so much that needs to change.